The Sea Gem
was the first British offshore oil rig
An oil platform, also referred to as an offshore platform or, somewhat incorrectly, oil rig, is a lаrge structure with facilities to drill wells, to extract and process oil and natural gas, and to temporarily store product until it can be brought to shore for refining and marketing...
, and the first British offshore rig disaster when in 1965, the rig's legs collapsed, killing 13 of the crew.
In the early 1960s, oil companies had found some crude oil in Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...
, as well as in Holland
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...
, and suspected that there was more to be found under the North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...
. Unfortunately there were some barriers that had to be overcome before it was to be possible to search for oil and gas.
First of all, there had been no international agreements that addressed the rights to the various minerals and areas outside the three mile (5 km) limit. Also, the technology required was not yet developed, or hadn't matured enough to be commercially usable.
The main factor, however, was that the oil companies generally didn't think that there were significant enough reserves in the North Sea to warrant the usage of resources to search for oil. This situation changed however, when fields such as Groningen in Holland, and to a certain extent Eakring
Eakring is a village in the Newark and Sherwood district in Nottinghamshire.-Geography:It is situated between the A617 and the A616 roads between Ollerton and Southwell. Dukes Wood to the south is situated on the top of an escarpment, giving good views over the Trent valley to the east and towards...
in the UK, proved to contain fairly large reserves, thus prompting the oil companies to begin a search in nearby areas, including the North Sea.
The Sea Gem made the first British discovery of gas on August 20, although the find was too small to be commercially profitable.
The Sea Gem
was originally a 5,600 ton steel barge, converted to function as an oil rig by British Petroleum in 1964. The barge basically consisted of 10 steel legs which made it possible to raise the barge 15 metres (49.2 ft) over the water's surface, as well as a helipad
Helipad is a common abbreviation for helicopter landing pad, a landing area for helicopters. While helicopters are able to operate on a variety of relatively flat surfaces, a fabricated helipad provides a clearly marked hard surface away from obstacles where a helicopter can safely...
, living quarters for the crew of 34 and a drilling tower with associated structures.
On 27 December 1965, the rig was located approximately 67 km (41.6 mi; 36.2 nmi) off the coast of Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...
. The crew were in the process of moving the rig to another site approximately 2 nautical miles (3.7 km) away. This process involved lowering the rig onto the surface of the water, in order to float it to the new site. When the rig was lowered, two of the legs crumpled and broke, causing the rig to capsize, with equipment and people sliding off and into the freezing cold of the North Sea at 1409 GMT.
As the radio hut was among the equipment falling into the sea, the rig never sent out an emergency signal. Luckily the nearby British freight ship the Balrover
observed the capsizing. The crew on Balrover
sent out emergency signals and proceeded to help rescue the crew together with a RAF and a civilian helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...
As a result of an inquiry into the accident, several changes were made in order to improve the safety of oil rigs, amongst them the use of a stand-by boat, which would be able to help rescue crews in the event of future accidents, and the recognition of an Offshore Installation Manager
The Offshore Installation Manager is the most senior manager of an offshore platform operating on the UKCS.Many offshore operators have adopted this UK offshore management model and title and applied it to their operations in all global regions irrespective of the local regulations in force.In the...