Just after the PWA Slalom World Cup event in Ulsan, Korea, myself and Kurosh Kiani took a little trip down to Okpo Island, which is just outside Busan, in the south of South Korea. Okpo is home to one of the biggest shipyards on planet earth, owned by Samsung (yeah, you know them, the electronics brand, yo!) and a cousin of mine happens to be working down there overseeing the build and fitout of some of the world’s biggest Drillships.
Don’t know what a Drillship is?? Understandable. It’s basically what would happen if the Titanic, a Space Shuttle, Terminator and the Mining Industry had a baby together that looked like a ship. We got the full tour of one of the new ships being commissioned and it is one of the most impressive and complex pieces of engineering design I have ever seen. Drillships are designed to head out in to the far reaches of the ocean then can drill +3km deep in to the ocean seabed; mostly being used for exploration of new gas and oil wells and scientific drilling. These beasts don’t use anchors, they position themselves to exact GPS coordinators by maintaining engine thrust from 6 different thrustors to stay in position whilst the drilling takes place; all with a floating drill pivot that allows the ship to tilt over massive waves in the ocean without actually moving the drill pieces in the ocean – which would surely break if not! If that doesn’t seem complicated enough; at the same time this is going on, there is mud being sucked up out of the drill which is then compacted and treated on-board in massive tanks and turbines before being hardened and pumped back down to the bottom of the ocean.
The drills are controlled by just 4 guys sitting in a pressurised cabin on the top of the ship. Each driver sits in a space-chair complete with all sorts of joysticks and custom-keyboards and flatscreen monitors to show all the information that the drill’s sensors spit out – as well as cameras on every angle to make sure everything is running smoothly. The drivers don’t really need to leave the control room; even in a hurricane.
Samsung is one of the biggest shipyards on the planet employing over 30,000 people every day with its own hotels, sports centres, running tracks, gyms, shops and basically its own economy to keep the workers happy and on the site 24 hrs a day to keep busting out these massive ships.
Was definitely a side trip from windsurfing I will remember for a long time. Including climbing the ladders to the top of the drill mount which are around 30 storeys high climbing up a sketchy metal ladder! Thanks to Tim and the guys at National Oilwell Varco for lending us the overalls and allowing us to check out the site.