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What is an OIM?

Posted by on April 13, 2011

After writing my previous entry, I did a couple of internet searches on OIM (Offshore Installation Manager). I found surprisingly little information on the topic so I thought a description might make a good blog post.

The OIM is king on an offshore drilling rig or production platform for half of the year. As defined by the Coast Guard in the code of federal regulations (10.107 CFR 46)

“Offshore installation manager or OIM means an officer restricted to service on MODUs. An assigned offshore installation manager is equivalent to a master on a conventional vessel and is the person designated by the owner or operator to be in complete and ultimate command of the unit”

Most OIMs in the Gulf of Mexico are at least 40 years of age, southern, obese, and pulling in salaries that are in the $100k to $200k per year range. Not bad considering that few of them have more than a high school education.

To become an OIM, one must fight his way through a hierarchy of 5-7 positions to prove himself capable of managing an asset that can be worth up to a billion dollars. Often times, the men that reach the top of this hierarchy are dominant men who quickly grow accustomed to doing whatever they want.

Often, problems stem from the fact that the OIM is only on the rig for 2-4 weeks at a time, after which his relief replaces him for another 2-4 weeks. Sometimes, one OIM makes a decision that stands for his 2-4 week “hitch”. When OIM #2 shows up on the rig, he decides that the other OIM’s decision was foolish and abolishes it. A classic example is a welding project that one OIM completes just to have the next one tear it down. This cycle of building and destroying the same project continues until one of the OIMs tires of the game or their supervisor hears of it and shuts it down.

One of the most important jobs of a good manager is to assure that the OIMs work together even though they only meet in passing a few times  a month. Silly games like the one above are degrading to the entire crew. Imagine being the poor welder remaking the same project for 6 months in a row.

The problem with managing OIMs is that they are 100′s of mile away in the middle of the ocean. The manager’s main communications to the rig are daily phone calls with the OIM, who can paint the story however he wants.

Most of what is written here is based on personal experience. I have worked solely in the Gulf of Mexico, so my OIM observations are probably skewed by the fact that my OIMs have all been American. Please comment with your observations of the OIMs and any discrepancies you might see in this post.

Further Reading:

4 Responses to What is an OIM?

  1. Jack

    Trashy oil companies do trashy things…..good oil companies do good things. The experience you had isnt one Ive ever heard of, but Ive only worked with one oil company my entire career. Ive worked in the Gulf a good bit. (along with a lot of other business units with the same company). Ive been in supervisor roles and hourly roles, and my experience with OIMs is much different than yours. Our OIMs are about 75% college educated and 25% guys that have worked their way up through operations. Although, both are senior level employees that have worked their way through the ranks. Either through engineering or operations. All the OIMs I have worked with practice what they preach and all preach teamwork teamwork teamwork. Anyway, thats my experience.

    • Blaj

      Thanks for being my first unsolicited commenter Jack. Your comments leave me wondering if I’m working at the wrong company. What weaknesses have you seen in the OIMs you have worked for?

      • Jack

        Not any one weakness to be exact. Every person in the oilfield has something that they excel at. OIMs are the same. Some excel at communication, others excel at process knowledge.

        Nothing to make an “OIM stereotype” though.

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