Rig-spotting trips a new tourism platform?

A group of 120 tourists, almost all Norwegians, each paid between $950 and $4,750 for four days on board an offshore vessel for a tour of some of the country's oil rigs - the first such tour ever.
A group of 120 tourists, almost all Norwegians, each paid between $950 and $4,750 for four days on board an offshore vessel for a tour of some of the country's oil rigs - the first such tour ever.PHOTO: REUTERS

Norwegians thrilled to see workings of the oil industry that made country so rich

OSLO • Bored with palm-fringed beaches and turquoise seas? Then the gigantic oil platforms of the North Sea beckon.

The first "rig-spotting" cruise has just ended off the coast of Norway, and those who took the four-day trip said it was jawdropping.

"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 mankind - towering 200m 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 North Sea is usually known for its cold and storms.

WET AND WILD WELCOME

Some of them fired flares or used water cannons to welcome us... We even had a rescue helicopter, with one worker dangling above us.

MR BJOERN ERIK JULSETH, manager of the company that organised the rig-spotting trip.

The group of 120 tourists, all Norwegians except for a German and a Swedish couple, each paid between 6,000 crowns and 30,000 crowns (between S$950 and S$4,750) for four days on board the high-tech offshore vessel Edda Fides.

The trip was organised by Edda Accommodation, a firm that provides housing for offshore oil workers. It is looking for new ways to drum up business as oil companies cut costs to cope with a 60 per cent drop in the price of crude since mid-2014.

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

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

Many were curious to see Norway's oil production first-hand.

Oil brought wealth to a once-poor country of 4.2 million within a generation, and is still its top 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 Boe, a journalist.

The tourists were not allowed to board the rigs for security reasons, but the offshore workers seemed thrilled to get 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 Mr Julseth, adding that the company would evaluate whether to do another cruise tour.

Mr Nils Olav Nergaard had his drone with him 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.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2016, with the headline 'Rig-spotting trips a new tourism platform?'. Print Edition | Subscribe