Life during COVID – Perspective of Darcy Westfall about being stuck in Singapore

July 10, 2020

When the EDrill-1 completed its maiden 5 year contract with PTTEP in December 2019 and sailed to Singapore to be warm stacked and prepared for the current 4 years contract again for PTTEP, nobody would have thought of how the world would have changed during this period.

The original plan of having two teams of mechanical and electrical supervisors working on a 28/28 rotation in the yard in Singapore quickly became unworkable due to the travel restrictions imposed by nations.

As fate would have it, Darcy Westfall (Electrical) and Graham Walton (Mechanical) were the ones on rotation in Singapore when the borders closed. What was supposed to be a 28 days work stay became a 5 months ordeal.

The company is fortunate to have them worked diligently through this challenging period. We interviewed Darcy about his unique experience and here is what he has to say…

How do you feel about working in Singapore for an extended period, given the circumstances of the pandemic with all the restrictions and being unable to go home?

Well, when I left Canada on Feb 15th and landed in Singapore on Feb 17, I would have never have believed my 28 day rotation would turn into what is has been.

That will be 154 days as of July 21st when I am scheduled to be going home. Then another two weeks of quarantine in Canada after that. Not being able to go home has been very hard.

It’s hard to say how I feel. No one knew this would happen, no one really knows what is happening day to day, and no one knows when this will all end so we can start getting back to normal living.

I never thought I would say it, but the biggest thing is I am homesick. I have gotten de-sensitized because of this…I don’t know how to describe it.

What have you done to keep yourself motivated and keeping healthy during the circuit breaker in Singapore while continue to work and maintain the rig?

The company had rented a nice condo with 3 major parks close to it. We were able to swim until circuit breaker closed swimming pools and gyms.

I would go for daily long hikes through the nearby parks, just to kill time mostly. Exercise was secondary to trying to keep my mind off home.

Motivation came from a few different sources. For starters as much as I want to retire, I am not ready to. Financially or physically. I wanted to make this contract my last one and end on a good note.

Secondly, it may sound like a bit too much, but feel because I was in stuck in Singapore I should and could make the best of it. I thought I could make a difference for a lot of people, including myself. I hoped that Graham and I staying on and foregoing some of the hardships and many days away from home, would finally pay off.

It could put colleagues and friends back to work and secure a few more years of employment for myself. I did not relish the idea of looking for work again.

We stuck it out, got on each other`s nerves a lot…him more on mine, lol… but here we are today with the rig back in Thailand rigged up. We both survived with no physical scars.

We are well into the drilling program with all of the top-hole sections completed. Neither of us felt that we could just walk away and feel “alright” possibly ending work for everyone including ourselves, so we stayed.

I arrived first mid-February & Graham at the end of February. As luck would have it, he left before me too on July 9th…. lucky SOB =)

There are plenty of other people that fought hard behind closed doors to keep it all going as well. We just don’t know the details but banks, shareholders and management all fought hard too.

I was a first-hand witness to seeing what management faced during the circuit breaker in Singapore. They should be applauded for their efforts.

What are the challenges you faced in Singapore and getting the rig re-activated? How did you overcome these challenges?

There were so many challenges and changes from one day to the other. We didn’t know when we were going to work, which days of the week we could, who could, & who couldn’t.

To overcome a lot of the uncertainties, and challenges, I just started blocking things out or tell yourself its out your control and to live with it. What are the alternatives when it is out of your control?

What was your immediate feeling for being able to get the rig ready for departure from Singapore to Gulf of Thailand and riding the tow?

Well my immediate feeling was one of pride and accomplishment. It was a great feeling, plus it was relaxing to be leaving Singapore. It was an even better feeling landing the first few choppers and greeting people I had not seen since November. There were a lot of familiar faces, handshakes, and smiles that were wanting to get back to work.

It was a good feeling that we had made it. We are back drilling again, but there are still lots of hurdles to jump during Covid. Hopefully we can all get back to a normal life soon. Last, I can say I am very excited to finally be going home on July 20th or 21st. I am proud of what we all accomplished in Singapore and in the Gulf of Thailand.

Darcy Westfall posing infront of the EDrill-1
Mission accomplished! – Darcy on the EDrill-1 after the successful start-up on the Arthit Field