Oil rig, dead ahead! Could offshore platforms become the new cruise trend?

If you’re bored with palm-fringed beaches and turquoise seas, why not try the gigantic oil platforms of the North Sea? The world’s first “rig-spotting” cruise has just ended off the coast of Norway, and tourists who were on board for the four-day trip have been talking about what they saw.

“I couldn’t believe that these big buildings could be made,” said passenger Kari Somme, 86, after seeing Statoil’s Troll A platform – the heaviest structure ever moved by humans – towering 200 metres (650ft) above the surface of the sea.

“It’s just wonderful, just wonderful. I was so excited because I didn’t know much about it. So when I came here and we went from rig to rig, or platform to platform, I was amazed,” she said.

The group of 120 tourists – all Norwegians except for a German and a Swedish couple – paid between 6,000 and 30,000 crowns ($700-$3,500) for four days on board the high-tech offshore vessel Edda Fides.

The trip was organised by Edda Accommodation, which provides housing for offshore oil workers; the company is looking for new ways to drum up business as oil firms cut costs after a 60% slump in the price of oil since mid-2014.

“There was little activity, so we used our creativity to come up with ideas,” said Bjön Erik Julseth, the hotel manager on board. “We organised this trip in six weeks.”

The inaugural group toured oil installations at the Troll, Balder or Ringhorn fields before a second tour departed for a trip further north to the fields of the Norwegian Sea.

Oil production is Norway’s biggest industry, but the bulk of the work is unseen as it takes place offshore.

“Every Norwegian knows that the oil has brought us wealth and welfare that can’t be compared to nothing or to no one,” said passenger Arnt Even Bøe, a journalist. 

The tourists were not allowed to board the rigs for security reasons, but the offshore workers seemed thrilled to see visitors.

“Some of them fired flares or used water cannon to welcome us … We even had a rescue helicopter, with one worker dangling above us,” said Julseth. The company would now evaluate whether to repeat the cruise, he said.

Passenger Nils Olav Nergaard brought his drone on the trip and said it had been “a real adventure”. “To be a part of a high-tech offshore vessel, almost as a crew, and get the experience to go to the oil platforms and see them for real, that was very amazing,” he said.

Article source: The Guardian