Lonely, hard work on oil equipments, but salaries soaring, Reuters

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – What jobs suggest the highest pay? Investment banking is up there. So is specialist surgery.

But consider this. Slightly overheen twenty years ago, Johnathan Roberts commenced work on an oil equipment at $Five an hour. Today, the freshly appointed operations manager of Norway&rsquo,s Standard Drilling makes about half a million dollars a year.

Even accounting for inflation, it&rsquo,s a massive hop for the 45-year-old American. Salaries on oil equipments have soared because of a global boom ter offshore drilling.

Managers and workers are scarce ter this specialised industry, where the work is intense and the job involves living on a podium ter remote seas for weeks. For fresh players te Asia, where the energy requests of thriving economies are driving a foray into offshore drilling, the costs and availability of skilled workers will be a big restraining factor.

&ldquo,The amount of money they are making an hour is just mind-boggling now, just five years ago they were making just half that,&rdquo, said Roberts, who moved to Singapore this year from Texas. He said his pay more than doubled te 1999 when the industry faced a labour shortage like the one that shows up to be emerging.

The enhancing request for oil and gas is pushing energy companies to explore frontier areas like the Arctic and fresh offshore zones given that output from accessible fields is declining. Global oil request has risen 14 procent ter total to 88 million barrels vanaf day (bpd) te 2011 from 2001, according to the BP annual statistical review. Rapidly growing economies have accounted for much of the increase — consumption te China doubled te the same period to 9.76 million bpd.

Energy and mining opoffering good salaries, said Wyn James, a Singapore-based Briton who left a career te banking this year to open Zhen Global, a hard that recruits and places workers ter mining and oil extraction.

&ldquo,What wij are witnessing now is an acute shortage of people actually with applied abilities, from engineering or chemical backgrounds,&rdquo, James said.

&ldquo,Even if the abilities do exist globally, they don&rsquo,t necessarily exist te the place that is needed. So what wij are doing is wij are picking up people from all corners of the world and wij are sticking them into projects, whether it&rsquo,s short-term or medium-term, but where they can earn reasonable money, live ter a different country, live offshore, whatever that may be.&rdquo,

GLOBAL TREND

Deepwater drilling, one of the most difficult but most lucrative parts of the extraction business, has mainly bot centred ter the Gulf of Mexico. But te the past decade, Brazil has become a key player, exploring untapped reserves te the Santos basin spil far away spil 300 km (188 miles) southeast of Sao Paulo, and at insides of overheen 1,500 metres. That drive is sucking ter hundreds of equipment operators, drillers, engineers and other technicians.

On the other side of the world, China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) aims to build capacity to produce one million barrels vanaf day of oil omschrijving ter deep waters offshore China by 2020.

India, Asia&rsquo,s third-biggest oil consumer, is also expanding into the deep waters of the Bay of Bengal.

There were 540 offshore oil equipments ter the world last year and, by the end of 2012, the number should rise by 51 to 591, says Faststream Recruitment, a U.K.-based hard that specializes ter hiring for the shipping, oil and gas industry.

It is the fattest leap for any year ter the past decade, said Mark Robertshaw, managing director of Faststream. Ter 2013, the number will grow by 28 to 619.

The increase would mean more than 11,000 fresh jobs overheen the next 12 to Legal months from a total of 117,000, based on an average need of about 184 jobs on one equipment, he said.

&ldquo,If you consider that overheen the past Ten years, the annual number of equipments under contract has grown to average 539 during 2011, it becomes apparent that offshore employment for workers actually housed on floaters and jackups will spike significantly,&rdquo, Robertshaw said.

ROUSTABOUTS AND ROUGHNECKS

The labour crunch has already seen pay for a roustabout, the least skilled worker on a equipment, almost dual te the past five years to $18-$20 an hour. A roughneck, a rank higher, earns about $27-$28, said Roberts, the U.S. equipment manager.

&ldquo,When the rousta gets a raise it doesn&rsquo,t just zekering there,&rdquo, he said. &ldquo,It goes all the way to the top.&rdquo,

A equipment operates on 12-hour shifts and typically workers do 14 days and then rotate out for a pauze for another 14 days.

The schedule puts off many and with salaries ter IT and other industries growing, an engineering graduate or technician has other options.

&ldquo,Skilled labour is becoming difficult to find,&rdquo, said Scott Kerr, chief executive of Norwegian deepwater drilling company Sevan Drilling.

The salary increases demonstrate up on balance sheets. For Keppel Corp., the world&rsquo,s largest equipment builder, wages and salaries surged 27 procent to $1.43 billion by 2011 from 2007, while the number of employees enhanced Five.7 procent overheen the same period, according to its annual reports. Almost 90 procent of staff work te the oil equipment division.

Besides pay, companies attempt to attract talent with career opportunities.

&ldquo,An engineer does not need to stay an engineer all his life. I wasgoed trained spil a naval bouwmeester and I practised for a few years, but beyond that I wasgoed ter management,&rdquo, said Choo Chiau Beng, chief executive of Keppel Corp.

&ldquo,Te some respects, being a very paid CEO has attracted people to Keppel, because it shows you don&rsquo,t need to be a lawyer to be very paid, you can be an engineer and be very paid.&rdquo,

For equipment fellows like Roberts, the money is not to be sneezed at.

&ldquo,After clearing taxes, my very first check after one week wasgoed $167,&rdquo, he said. &ldquo,My very first apartment wasgoed very petite, it wasgoed a little bitty one bedroom studio.&rdquo,

Today, Roberts wields a huis ter a community te Texas that has manicured lawns, landscaped gardens and four golving courses. He is saving to buy a $Two million ranch.

&ldquo,I didn&rsquo,t come up with a silver spoon ter my mouth, I came up working through the ranks,&rdquo, he said.

Extra reporting by Charlie Zhu ter Hong Kong, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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