Sun, Dec 09, 2018 - Page 15 News List

On an oil ship off Angola, life is work and privacy is a luxury

About 100 people from 23 nations share close quarters for weeks at a time aboard a floating production, storage and offloading vessel holding up to 2 million barrels of highly flammable crude

By Philippe Alfroy  /  AFP, ON BOARD THE KAOMBO NORTE, Angola

Helmets, goggles, gloves and safety shoes are compulsory in such a dangerous work environment. The ship holds up to 2 million barrels of highly flammable crude in its hold.

“The amount of energy under our feet is huge,” one crew member said. “The slightest incident can escalate into a disaster.”

Angolan Elgar Ferreira, 36, is responsible for ensuring safety standards are upheld on a vessel that is like a floating tower of Babel with 23 nationalities on board.

“One of the difficulties is that we have different cultures ... different ways of seeing things,” he said. “I spend a lot of time explaining.”

The Portuguese chef, Carlos Macedo, plays an essential role in boosting camaraderie among the crew by producing a daily menu of culinary treats.

“One captain told me that my job was one of the most important on board,” Macedo said. “When he finishes his day, the sailor needs a clean room, a tidy bed and a good dinner. My goal is to satisfy all my customers, without exception.”

And as for women on board — there are a handful.

“Here everyone is kind and helpful, so it’s quite easy,” 38-year-old Italian engineer Franca Sabattini said. “I say to all my colleagues: ‘If you think that offshore is not for women, look at me — I’m here and I’m happy.’”

However, the struggle for a settled family life is one issue that worries Tanguy.

“It’s going to be four years that I am offshore and then I would like a more sedentary life,” he said.

“The other day we went round the table in the canteen, almost all were divorced,” he added.

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