We spoke to Chris Davie, CPA Health & Medical’s Offshore Medic at Bayu-Undan in the Timor Sea, in order to understand our long-standing operations at this critical site. Chris works at one of two facilities in a shallow water operations (80m) deep, staffed by our Medical team.

Where is it located and how long have we been operating at this location?

The site is 500km from Darwin and 250km from Timor-Leste, in the Timor Sea. The first production of the field was in April 2004. CPAGHM commenced at this location in 2015 and have a 10 year plus relationship with the client. One member of our team has been here for 17 years I believe.

In short the field consists of:

  • An unmanned Well Head Platform
  • CUQ facility: Compression, Utilities & Quarters
  • DPP : Drilling, Production and Processing ( connected to the CUQ via bridge)
  • FSO (Floating storage and Offloading) facility. The FSO can store:
    • 820,000 bbl condensate
    • 300,000 bbl propane
    • 300,000 bbl butane

What is our role?

It is a bit of everything. We are responsible for local (air traffic control), all helicopter operations and helicopter admin (flight manifests, weather reports, accommodation bed plans and allocations). Its not uncommon to fill in also as the HLO (helicopter landing officer), from time to time.

Further responsibilities consist of assisting with all HSE activities (especially as there is not always an HSE member present), occupational hygiene, D&A testing, ERT and medic assist training, Hydration monitoring, Mercury and Benzene testing and additional staff training in stretchers, AED, CPR and first aid.

This is all in addition to primary care of up to 200 staff in the field. We all sleep well at night! The vessel facility rocks you to sleep – it is not unheard of to be thrown out of bed when the vessel is sitting high in the water and there is a building swell.

How many CPA Health & Medical staff work there?

There are 5 full time medical staff.

  • Dave Robb
  • Jeremy O’Connor
  • Sean Balkin
  • Suzanne Tully

Now that COVID disruptions have dissipated our roster consists of 3/4/3/5 week rotations. We fly to Darwin, then to Dili then helicopter to the platform / Vessel.

What qualifications are required?

Our team are experienced and a highly skilled mix of Nurse Practitioners and Intensive care flight paramedics with remote and all round experience. We are supported by Dr Wilkinson and his team. There is one staff member on the FSO and one on the CUQ at any one time. Scott has been to site but to date, I have never actually met him. We have had many talks over the phone.

What are the challenges for our staff?

Our operational location would have to be the biggest. We are hours from support, it is a 2 hour helicopter flight / Medivac to Darwin, after the aircraft has arrived so it could be many hours before an evacuation can take place. We are working as sole operators, there is no time for complacency. From the minute we arrive we are operational and working 12 hours/day, 7 days a week and on call 24/7.

We need also be aware of the fact that half of the employees are Timor-Leste nationals so there are cultural and language differences. Also, illnesses and previous medical history may not always be considered when working with colleagues not all from a first world country. It is important to remember our staff are not all from Australia. Some of our team our presently assisting the Timorese nationals in English and Math TAFE education.

COVID was a real challenge with interstate and international travel. Myself travelling from Sydney I was required to complete 2 weeks isolation in the Howard Springs quarantine facility (Darwin), prior to commencing my offshore swing (generally 4 weeks offshore during this time). Then upon returning from Timor to Australia (the Northern Territory), we were required to spend a further 2 weeks in the Howard Springs facility. At the time, I was working 8-week rotations, with only a couple of weeks off. Being away from family was quite a challenge for us all.

What do you see as our major achievements in recent times?

Coping with COVID was a real strain, challenges of the roster plus doing PCR testing for 170-200 people – we were doing this every second day during the peak of COVID. We had to separate oncoming cohort/crews from off going and manage C19+ cases and close contacts offshore. It was not uncommon for us to be working 18-19 hour days. The client appreciated CPAGHM staff and the commitment we showed.

Maintaining this contract during the change of ownership of the operation is also something to be proud of for our team.

It is a team effort and we all contribute.

How do you see the future?

The field is planned for de-commissioning so we will be working with the client – our aim is to be as flexible as possible.

Our amazing team on this operation. What a team!!