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How To Find A Job As A Crane Operator On Offshore Oil Rigs

Offshore oil rig crane and operator

The job of a crane operator on offshore oil rigs is vital. Virtually nothing comes aboard an offshore rig without being lifted up by the crane operator. This includes personnel, pipe, food, drilling fluid, casing and other supplies. The rig crew, unless they arrive by helicopter, will be lifted up in a crew basket from a work boat idling down below.

Why Offshore Oil Rig Crane Operators Must Be Highly Experienced

A crane operator on land has to think in several dimensions, including up - down, left - right, and size the load for the prepared lift. Offshore, the variable of a rising and falling sea complicates the task. The workboat or barge, from which the lift is taking place, may be rising and falling as much as several feet at a time on the rolling sea. The operator must be finely in tune with this so that damage is not done to the barge, the crane, the load or the rig and personnel.

What Is The Work Like On An Offshore Rig?

On an offshore oil rig the job of a crane operator may be long and difficult, lifting joint after joint of casing or drill pipe, drilling mud, etc, from a waiting barge in rolling seas. The size of the work area is very confined. The operator must always be on the lookout for danger during a lift and must work with a qualified spotter and rigger.

Once the load is offloaded, there may be many hours of slack time. Sleep may be at odd hours and the operator may be awoken for special lifting jobs whenever they occur. A crane operator may follow the same schedule at the rest of the drilling rig crew, two weeks on and two weeks off, or in the case of overseas rigs, it may be one month or more on, followed by the same amount of time off.  He or she will eat in the galley, which is what the cafeteria is called. A recreation or TV room is often found on larger rigs and drill ships. Some even have fitness rooms with exercise equipment, though this is only on the "Cadillac rigs". Offshore crane operators make a good living, often averaging over $100,00 a year plus benefits.

What Experience Is Required For Offshore Crane Operators?

Oil companies typically require much more experience of their offshore operators than those on land. Persons wanting to work on the offshore rigs must expect to put in several years operating cranes on land and acquire experience with many kinds of lifts and cranes. Dockside work is a good preparation for working with lifts from barges.

What Licenses or Certifications Are Required Of Offshore Crane Operators?

There is a difference between licensing and certification. A license is required for the operator to work as a crane operator in a particular state. Currently there are several states that require a state crane operator license. They are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia. State law extends 12 miles outward from the shore in most states.

While there may no license required for an offshore oil rig crane operator, Federal OSHA maintains jurisdiction over cranes that are mounted on barges or ships that are in "navigable" waters. OSHA regulations change constantly and being certified by one of the major associations, such as NCCCO is a good idea. Most employers nowadays, require their crane operators to be certified and take refresher courses throughout their career. This is necessary to reduce the liability of the company should an incident occur.

Where To Look For Offshore Crane Operator Jobs

Once you have gained several years experience working on land based tower and overhead cranes, and are properly certified, look for job postings on sites like and in newspapers of cities where offshore drilling companies are based, such as New Orleans, Houston, Mobile, etc.

Where Can I Train To Become A Crane Operator?

For those with no previous experience consider a recognized crane operator school that will prepare you to pass NCCCO certification tests. A list of training providers is below.


National Commission For The Certification Of Crane Operators   Crane Operator Training Providers




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