Steve Oakes is working as a Lifting Supervisor via iPS at Van Oord and we received his story to publish.
Upon completing Electrical and Mechanical Engineering studies in 1997, I sought training and began working as a Banksman/Slinger Signaler in Central London and the Home Counties. It didn’t take long for me to realise that lifting was the field for me. As time passed, I gained experience and progressed to various lifting related roles which in brief have included Slinging/Rigging, operating and erecting various types and brands of crane, Supervision and Lift Planning & Management. I was working 12 hours, 6 or 7 days per week, with an average of 4 hours travelling to site per day which took it’s toll on family life and wasn’t sustainable. I still had the passion for lifting, so early 2012 I found that I was no longer stimulated by what I was doing. Not to suggest that anyone knows everything but for me, it all just became too repetitive – same operations, same equipment and surroundings, all meant that there was no longer a challenge. I needed something more, something where there was a good balance of using my existing skills and being able to continue learning and better myself.
Offshore seemed like the sensible choice and I also found the rotational schedule appealing, believing it could provide a far better work/life balance. I handed my notice into my employer before I’d secured an offshore position or even the necessary survival, safety and medical certificates – I knew where I wanted to be! I was lucky in that an offshore company recognised my skills as easily transferable to the offshore wind industry and I got my first offshore position very swiftly. Since then, I’ve never looked back! I can honestly say that deciding to take my skills offshore was the best career decision I ever made – whilst it is in a sense a sacrifice we make by working away from home, it definitely brought the balance between working and living that I was seeking.
Since changing tack career-wise, I’ve worked in some remote far-flung locations that I otherwise might not have ever seen. It’s great to work in such a dynamic environment where various technical, operational and environmental constraints regularly push us find solutions.
I’m currently engaged as a Heavy-Lift Supervisor, responsible for safely overseeing the lifting operations that facilitate grouting and completion works and ensuring that my client meets local and international requirements, all whilst working in an efficient and productive manner.
I also really enjoy the teamwork and the sense of camaraderie at sea. I mean, if you’re driving along and your car should break down, naturally you’d most likely call for roadside assistance. Well, offshore we don’t have the same luxury; we’re usually miles from any substantial support and often the supply lines may be cut off due to adverse weather. This means that when we’re faced with a technical issue or similar, everyone jumps in to get the operation up and running again, regardless of any job titles or hierarchy that may exist on paper. I’m happy that in my recent roles a Heavy-Lift Supervisor, I’m once again also able to mentor lifting teams, something which I always enjoyed in earlier life back in the UK. I’ve been blessed with working with some great people with brilliant minds and have made friends from more countries than what I can count.
We often use cutting edge equipment which in many cases have never been utilised before. I really enjoy seeing the new technology and all the innovations that are constantly evolving. I love the fact that I’m usually able to work alongside the engineers in order to have an input in streamlining various designs and configurations. The beauty of that is that I’m also directly using the equipment so am in a good position to give constructive feedback to facilitate future improvement design, fabrication or methods used – I believe this feedback is crucial as engineers can often be in a back office somewhere and they don’t always directly see the fruits of their labour or how improvements can be made. I find it incredibly rewarding to be a part of the problem solving process and to see the resulting optimisation. Any improvements we make, makes such projects more financially viable, which in turn encourages more investment and subsidies – This of course is great for the industry and I’m happy to be a part of it.