Guide to becoming an Offshore Contractor
The most important stage in this process is research; you need to know you’re entering an industry where you will be able to support yourself and find regular work. You need to ensure you are a self-starter, can motivate yourself and are willing to be flexible to secure work contracts, sometimes at very short notice. You also need to be very much in charge of your own finances and you’re not always entitled to sick and holiday pay. This can be hard to manage, so you need to ensure becoming a contractor is right for you. It’s worth joining LinkedIn and recruitment agencies to find work; joining an agency such as Offshore Marine People and Academy means there’s another pair of eyes looking for work for you, which doubles your chances – this can only be a good thing! LinkedIn allows employers and agencies to find you as well as allowing you to join groups within that industry to start building contacts and relationships which will benefit in the long run.
Part of that research is also about being aware of the working conditions and what’s expected of you as an offshore contractor:-
- Long hours – 12-hour shifts, often working for weeks at a time with no time off
- Demanding working conditions – aboard vessels and out at sea (ever changing weather conditions)
- Physically demanding – must be fit and healthy
- Being a team player is a must – learning how to fit seamlessly into different teams
- No alcohol or non-prescription drugs allowed on the job or aboard vessels and regular testing is the norm.
- Sharing accommodation / cabins on vessels is also normal practice, so be prepared to share facilities.
Limited Company or Umbrella Company?
Will you be setting up your own limited company to gain a higher income and benefits or will you use an umbrella company to take care of the administration and provide yourself a salary? You need to weigh up the pros and cons to both options to make an educated decision. Further information can be found through these links:
- Limited or umbrella? Making the right choice (contractoruk.com)
- Working through an umbrella company – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- How to set up a limited company as a contractor (contractoruk.com)
If you go down the Limited Company route, you will need to know how to invoice and how to fill in time sheets along with other paperwork. Having a standard template that you use for each job will keep things simple and tidy. For advice on how to do this visit the following link:
- How to write an invoice: guide and free template download (simplybusiness.co.uk)
- Guide to contractor timesheets and invoicing your agency – Contract Eye
What is IR35 and how does it affect me?
You may often hear the phrase ‘working inside IR35.’ This simply means that you pay tax as an employee would – but you will also be entitled to the same benefits as an employee even when working as a contractor. Working ‘outside’ IR35 means you pay tax as a contractor as normal. Further information on how this affects you whether you’re a Limited company or using an Umbrella company can be found here:
- IR35 – What is it all about? – Offshore Marine People & Academy (offshorempa.com)
- What is IR35 and what does it mean for contractors? | Hiscox UK
What insurance do I need?
Accidents and disagreements can happen therefore you need to make sure you’re one step ahead and covered by the correct insurance policy, so you don’t suffer a loss of earnings. Take the time to investigate different policies. Public and Employers liability and Professional Indemnity insurance must be considered especially if you work offshore. To find the best deal for you, follow this link:
Equipment and Training – be prepared
As an offshore contractor you are required to have certain Health & Safety training and medical certification to be eligible to work offshore. These need to be regularly refreshed and kept up to date. The most common qualifications required in offshore work are GWO’s (Global Wind Organisation) which consist of 5 modules: Sea Survival, First Aid, Fire Awareness, Working at Heights and Manual Handling. For more information on these modules, please see our website:
An Offshore Medical (or OGUK Medical) is also a requirement to ensure you are fit and healthy enough to do the job safely. This includes ‘Fit to Train’ which relates to the risk of using Compressed Air Emergency Breathing systems (AB-EBS). A list of OGUK Medical doctors can be found here:
Equipment may also be required depending on the job role you are performing. Most employees provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to everyone working on the vessel but you may need to invest in some steel toe-capped safety boots, as these are usually a standard requirement for all personnel onboard. The below link is extremely useful to find out more on Offshore Health & Safety; the information sheets cover a wide range of areas:
Becoming an offshore contractor can be extremely rewarding, providing you with a flexible work pattern and the ability to travel all over the world and work for a variety of companies and exciting new projects. The above information should provide a great foundation for your new career path. Other useful links can be found below: