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When the Covid-19 pandemic first struck, everyone was uncertain as to what might be required to try to maintain the continuity of our operations, particularly given the nature of offshore work and the close proximity of our offshore colleagues to one another while on shift and also when off duty.
BACKGROUND TO THE QUARANTINE REQUIREMENT
In order to support the continuity of our international contracts, we agreed together with our clients to put in place arrangements to ensure that both our personnel and those of their contractors and subcontractors underwent time in a managed isolation facility. By doing this and ensuring that all of those concerned worked to strict protocols, the exposure of personnel to Covid-19 would be minimised, thus allowing them to continue to mobilise for their offshore working rotation.
WHO IS REQUIRED TO ISOLATE?
Anyone who is transiting to one of our offshore drilling units working internationally is required to complete the appropriate quarantine regime according to their end destination. Broadly, the same process applies for each of our clients but each one is set up slightly differently according to each client’s specific requirements. In addition, the personnel from the clients’ other contractors who are also mobilising to the same drilling unit are required to undergo the same quarantine as our personnel. For certain contracts, this can also include onshore personnel who are mobilising internationally in support of that contract.
HOW DO THE ARRANGEMENTS WORK?
We have set up contracts with a number of hotels in order to support the agreed quarantine arrangements with our various clients. Access to the facilities is strictly controlled by our Staging Team onsite who are responsible for managing the day to day arrangements at each location. The team is key to the success of the whole quarantine setup and primary duties include maintaining the live register of personnel isolating, managing day to day protocol issues to ensure adherence to these and arranging PCR sample testing. The Staging Team is also responsible for investigating any protocol breaches as well as any Covid-19 positive cases along with who these personnel may have been in contact with.
The Staging Team also prevents unauthorised personnel from accessing the hotel without the proper approvals first being in place and this includes security guards and cameras to assist.
All costs associated with the quarantine at each hotel are carefully recorded in order that these can be recovered from the client in line with the agreed terms.
QUARANTINE – WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Prior to mobilising for their typical offshore rotation, our crews are required to isolate at the quarantine facility for a minimum of fourteen days. During this period, each quarantining individual is required to have two negative PCR tests and to undergo two daily temperature checks and are required to stay within the hotel complex to maintain the integrity of their quarantine bubble. Any individual with a positive result is further isolated and our medical provider is involved and the individual is either sent home if possible or isolated off-site immediately.
It is important to emphasise that the bubble integrity is critical. Personnel are only allowed out of their rooms to either pick up their meals or attend the exercise / smoking area. Meal times are strictly controlled with meals scheduled to be picked in ten-minute intervals so as to limit the number of personnel collecting their food at one time and the meals must be consumed in their rooms. As you might imagine, being in quarantine can be quite boring and to help to relieve the boredom, some individuals have brought gaming consoles from home.
While in quarantine, the ‘traditional’ hotel housekeeping services are not available so cleaning products are provided within the hotel room, together with spare linen, towels and toiletries for use as and when required.
DEPARTURE FROM THE FACILITY
On their departure from the quarantine hotel, only personnel who have been Covid screened (2 x negative PCR test results) and who have completed the full staging process with required immigration clearance will be allowed to travel on the charter flight. For travelling to the airport, the individuals go by coach from the hotel to the airport, with all coaches being deep cleaned prior to each journey and with the coach driver having no direct contact with passengers at any stage of the journey. On arrival at their departure airport, a staggered check-in is conducted.
During this whole process, all personnel who are involved need to ensure PPE is worn until they are seated aboard the aircraft. All flight crew have been Covid-19 screened prior to flight (negative PCR) and on the plane, the aircraft’s crew use a separate lavatory from the passengers in order to minimize the risk of exposure.
There have been a couple of instances where the arrangements haven’t run as smoothly as anticipated. These have included one flight where the pilot who had been scheduled to fly the quarantined crew to their work location tested positive and a suitable replacement had to be found at very short notice. On another occasion, the outgoing flight with the departing drilling crew was in the air on the way to the work location when a call came in that they would be unable to complete their mobilisation to the drilling unit as a result of poor weather at their destination. In this instance, the plane had to return to London and our crews had to return to the quarantine hotel in the middle of the night and the logistics of this had to be managed in conjunction with the ‘replacement’ crew who were arriving to begin their isolation that day.
To conclude, we can only hope that the measures which individuals, the industry as a whole and the governments have in place to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 virus have the desired effect and we can get back to ‘normal’ sooner rather than later. One thing is for sure – no-one could describe being in quarantine ‘on their way to work’ as being anything like a traditional hotel stay!
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