Monday, September 29, 2008


I arrived home this evening 5 minutes ahead of schedule at 6.45pm. Our flight hit a patch of bad weather enroute from Miri. Apparently we caught a tailwind.

I have some thoughts and many pictures to post.

But I'm rather exhausted right now so those will have to wait.

It's good to be home.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Scary Shit

Well, I finished my course at MSTS. The OPITO approved TBOSIET with EBS and HUET and TSBB modular course. Yes, I've had to deal with many, many acronyms the last three weeks.

By the way, OPITO if I remember correctly is Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation or something like that. TBOSIET is Tropical Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training. EBS is Emergency Breathing System. HUET is Helicopter Underwater Escape Technique (scary shit this one). TSBB is Travel Safely By Boat.

So what would one expect from the TBOSIET with EBS and HUET and TSBB course?

For me, it was fun. And interesting. And educational. And pant shitting scary. All at the same time.

The first day was very blah. Theory. CPR. First aid. All that stuff I already know about but this time I did some practical exercises. So now I officially know CPR. In the afternoon, we did sea survival theory. The instructor was brilliant, this guy called Dr. James. Old guy, extremely experienced. And funny.

The fun part was the 2nd day. In the morning we had firefighting. Honestly, it's the absolute best firefighting demo and training session I've ever seen. They asked us to do everything. We tried out all the major kinds of fire extinguisher and the hose reel to tackle all kinds of fire.

You'd think fire is all the same but nope it ain't. Using the wrong extinguisher with the wrong technique can actually make things worse. And it's not just point and squeeze either. Depending on the fire and the type of extinguisher it's all different. I might go into detail in a future post.

So we tried out all the extinguishers. Water based, foam, CO2 and dry powder. We put out massive fires so hot you could feel them from 40 feet away. This was serious shit and the instructor made that very, very clear.

Beats your usual fire department fire demo any day I tell ya...

The fire sessions were done by Dr James again so we had a lot of fun with his usual shenanigans and mickey taking. We rounded up the session with some hose reel and fire blanket exercises.

Next up we went through the "smoke" house. I say "smoke" in quotes because there was no smoke actually. It was just a darkened shipping container with some corridors, obstacles and rooms built into it. All one had to do was walk through it without falling down or panicking.

It's pitch black and really, really hot in there. Very bad for people with claustrophobia.

We went in solo and in groups. Good session. Ulrick the instructor was a really cool guy and did his job really well.

In the afternoon, the pool sessions. This is the place where all the ball shrinking fear and terror was concentrated.

First up, sea survival practise. The four of us suited up with our life jackets and trooped out to the pool where we were greeted by Richard our instructor and a bunch of safety divers.

After the usual refresher briefing and lifejacket talk, they asked us to jump. Not fun.

The platform was 3.5m high. Normally I wouldn't have too much trouble. It's not that high. But with all the people watching and the lifejacket and my mild fear of heights I nearly couldn't do it.

It wasn't that bad really. I jumped and landed nicely in the water. The lifejacket helps a lot. The jumping technique we were taught helped to minimise the impact of landing in the water.

Once everyone was in the water we formed up into a group. They showed us how to swim in a group and to do it with minimal energy. We then clambered into a liferaft. It was exhausting. Then we swam out into the pool again and we finished off by simulating being pulled out of the water by a rope.

Next was the really, really scary part. HUET.

We changed our lifejackets for another one with EBS, the Emergency Breathing System. Back to the pool they showed us how to deploy our EBS and how to use it properly.

Essentially, you fill the EBS airbag with your own breath and rebreath it when you activate the rebreather. It was ok but I really had to force myself to breath underwater. The natural tendency is to hold your breath so I had to force myself to breath.

Once you get used to it, it's not so bad.

Up till this point I was fine if a little cold and a little nervous. The HUET demo drained all the blood from my brain.

For HUET they use this contraption attached to a winch and a swinging mechanism with in turn is attached to a power winch. This contraption is used to simulate a helicopter cabin complete with seats. You get in the simulator and strap in as you would in any aircraft. There are four exercises.

The first is called the controlled ditch without EBS. They dunk the simulator into the water. You hold your breath for about 7 seconds then you unstrap and swim out the window. Which is quite small...

This exercise wasn't so bad although being strapped in a seat while in the water is quite unnerving. Oh yes, in that kind of situation strap in TIGHT. Tight harnesses snap open when you undo them. Loose harnesses need you to physically pull the buckle apart. Not easy when you're underwater and in a real big hurry to get the hell out.

The second exercise is the same as the first except with EBS and they put plastic window panes in the simulator. Dunk in the water then sit for a few seconds, push the window out and swim out. Easy right? It is.

Except I messed this up twice. The first time, I dropped my EBS mouthpiece into the water and could fill it with air. The second time I unstrapped and then tried to push the window while underwater. This is wrong. You should push the window pane first and then unstrap. If you unstrap first you'll float in the cabin and won't be able to push the window.

The next two exercises was the real ball buster. It's the same as the first two with and without EBS. The same. Except the "helicopter" is turned upside down in the water...

Exercise number three is called the uncontrolled ditch without EBS. Dunk and turn upside down in the water. Sit and wait for the thing to stop moving. Unstrap and swim out. Watch out for vertigo.

This one was very, very unnerving. Being upside down in the water is quite painful with all that water rushing up the nostrils.

Exercise number four is the uncontrolled ditch with EBS. Dunk and go upside down, sit for awhile and unstrap. Swim out.

This one was no problem. By this time, I had gotten used to being strapped into the seat while in the water. The simulator went down into the water and I deployed the EBS. Upside down, unstrap and swim out. It was perfect, Except on the way out I hit one of the safety divers and accidentally pulled his regulator out of his mouth.

We had some final words from the teacher and went off to shower.

The third day was only half day.

Damn, the place is closing. I'll continue this post next time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I'm sitting in the Boulevard Sugar Bun using the KFC wifi. Miri is a lot like Kuching with significantly less traffic. It's a little smaller but like Kuching, it's quite spread out. I get a sense of wide open spaces when I'm in town. Not cramped and "narrow" like Sibu.

It's very, very inconvenient to stay in a place with no internet access. And when you don't have your own transport. Miri would be a lot more fun if I had my own car. The night life looks very interesting and we've been to some really cool places to hang out.

Public transport is as non-existent here as in the rest of the state.

I've been busy doing med checks and getting familiar with the town. Being driver around is ok but I think the best way to get to know a strange new urban area is to roll up the trousers and leg it.

Actually, I have many things to write about but it's hard when I don't have time to myself. When I go home, I'm going to value my alone down time a little bit more.

My sea survival course starts tomorrow and MSTS. I hope time rushes by quickly. I'm tired of being surrounded by people all the time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


The bad thing about a night bus trip is that you can't see anything. Mercifully, the bus was comfortable and there was almost no traffic. We left Sibu at 11.30 last night.

I arrived in town at 6.20am this morning. Will be here for 2 weeks. My sea survival course will be on Wednesday at MSTS. I'm going for another med check tomorrow.

I'm currently outside this place called Madli's. It's quite nice. The wifi is quick and clear. The nasi goreng kampung special is very nice.

I can't guarantee I can get regular internet connection so updates on this blog and on Facebook will be sporadic.

I'm probably going home on the 30th is possible. I'll be busy that day posting resumes and seeing people about future employment. Can't wait to be home. Got a lot of pictures to post.

I'll update whenever possible.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I'm done with my GOC course. Took the written exam this morning. The results won't be known to us. ALAM (Akademi Laut Malaysia) will issue us certs when our results are finalized.

I know I passed. It was a breeze really. The whole thing has been a breeze actually. I can only hope I can as well when I find work. If I find work.

Where to next?

I'll be leaving for Miri either tomorrow evening or early Sunday morning. Updates will be sporadic. I don't know where am I going to be staying and I don't know if I can get internet connection. Sea survival course will begin some time in the middle of next week.

These last 2 weeks have been fun. We met a lot of cool people. Some of us will become real friends in the future. I hope to see and meet some us again either on land or the high seas.

Heh, me on the high seas.

After the exam this morning, our instructor Mr. Ang advised us to go as far and wide as we can. Get experience. Earn money. Travel and see the world and the seven seas. There is work everywhere. Go for it.

I will. I will try at least.

It's so funny to think about. A little more than 2 weeks ago, I left my old job. Right now it feels like a lifetime ago. How fast things change.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I went to do my Marine Dept. medical check up just now. I nearly failed it.

See, I wear specs and I haven't changed the prescription for a long, long time. In the morning I went and failed the eye test. Badly. I can see well enough with both eyes open but apparently I'm a little bit blinder with only one eye especially my left.

So I now have new specs. It's pretty cheap to get new specs here in Sibu.

In the afternoon I went back to the clinic with my new specs. My right eye was ok but I still failed with my left. If it weren't for the nurse's help I would've officially failed it. After picking up the results I went back to the optical place and got my left lens redone. The guy was very nice about it. He didn't charge me for the new lens.

So now I'm wearing my redone specs and trying to get used to them. I feel slightly sick.

I'm amazed at how fast it is to make new glasses these days. Last time I had to wait for a few days for my new specs to be ready. Now it takes 30 minutes. That's technology for ya.

The new specs cost me 200 bucks. The med check cost 97 bucks. I'll post a pic of the new specs in Fesbook later.

Fesbook is going to be so very useful.

Oh yes, I didn't go to class today. I didn't have to. Today the boys had their oral and practical assessment. I passed them all yesterday so our instructor told me to take the day off. I think this the first time ever an instructor signed my attendance for me. I did quite well over the last two weeks. So well in fact, the instructor kept telling everyone to go ask me if the rest of the boys have questions.

Hopefully I'll do as well when/if I end up at sea.

We still got the written exam tomorrow morning. Should be a piece of cake but I ain't telling the other boys.

By the way, there are some really cool people in class. And some others not so cool... And some people are really, really dumb...

I've been in contact with my brother and Will over the last 2 weeks. Both of them are at sea at the moment. They both gave me very, very useful information and their assistance will be very, very important during my job hunt.

Next week we go to Miri and MSTS to attend our OPITO approved sea survival course for three days. After that, pass my resume to the company my brother and Will are at. Go there and talk to the HR boss. After that, home.

And hopefully a few weeks after that, wild blue...

I can't wait to get all this over with.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Truth Won't Stop Being True Just Because People Don't Talk About It

The following is an article in the NST today.

KOTA KINABALU: Malay-sians are still divided on the date of birth of the nation but the bottom line is the facts of history cannot be distorted, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.

Opening a seminar on "The Formation of Malaysia and Constitutional Rights of the States of Sabah and Sarawak" yesterday, Dompok said the issue had caused some Ma-laysians calling other Malay-sians "unpatriotic" for insisting on Sept 16, 1963, which was when Sabah and Sarawak officially joined Malaysia.

"Malaysians in the peninsula are quite oblivious to Sept 16 while in Sabah and Sarawak, most people are adamant that this is the date Malaysia was born.

"Let us not distort history. It is because we love our country that we want the proper date.

"I think Sabahans and Sara-wakians are zealous about safeguarding their date of independence," he said.
Based on history, Dompok said Sept 16, 1963 should be considered as Malaysia Day as it was the day Malaysia came into being.

"We know of course that there was no Malaysia before Sept 16, 1963. What existed then was the Federation of Malaya.

"If we had joined Malaya then, Malaysia Day would be Aug 31, 1957, but we did not.

"These are facts of history and I don't think we should change that. That is my point of view.

"Aug 31 is independence day for peninsular Malaysia and probably in the context of Sabah and Sarawak, Aug 31 can still be considered independence day, but Malaysia Day and the birth of Malaysia was on Sept 16."

On another note, he said that after 45 years of Malaysia's formation, the people today must feel proud that the country had developed by leaps and bounds.

"Disparities do exist, but by and large we have not suffered the plight of the African states which had similarly gained independence from their colonial masters."

Speaking to reporters later, Dompok said Petronas representatives had come to see him recently to explain the issue of the 500km gas pipeline from Kimanis in Sabah to Bintulu in Sarawak, the status of operations of which had caused doubts among Sabahans.

Asked if Petronas had confirmed or clarified about continuing the project, he said: "I don't know (about their decision).

"When they met me, I gave them a piece of my mind and I left it at that.

"But this is not the last of it. I am standing by what Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had informed the people."

Dompok said it was a serious issue for the integrity of the prime minister to be questioned by a government-linked company.

In May, Abdullah announced during his visit to Sabah that the gas pipeline project had been scrapped, but it was reported that Petronas had disregarded the announcement and many local leaders had voiced their unhappiness over this, saying that it would not benefit Sabah. -- Bernama

Malaysia is 45. Fact. In Sabah and Sarawak on the 31st of August 1957, NOTHING HAPPENED. Fact.

There are people who are not from here who want us to forget who we are and become them. There are people who want us to sacrifice our histories and adopt their history for the glory of a certain group of people who want to take the credit for what our previous generation decided.

Don't let them.

16 September 1963. Remember.

This article from The Star is also a good read.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

End of Week One

It's the end of my first week in Sibu. Learn a lot of new things. Luck is still on my side. Made some new friends in class. Am doing quite well with class at the moment. Our instructor is excellent. Most excellent.

As the course went on, my plans for the future is solidifying. I can see it very clearly now.

I'm also more aware of the risks. Weather, accidents, pirates. You know, the usual stuff. I guess that's why seaman earn so much.

Some of our classmates are in fact already working. Two of them are on rigs and at least two more are part of tanker crews. Their employers sent them here for certification. They tell the most amazing stories I've ever heard.

Some seaman and off shore oil and gas workers earn obscene amounts of money. 100, 200, 400 bucks a day. US dollars. For 14, 21, 30, 60 even 90 days at a stretch.

That's some crazy shit.

It's odd when I think about me going to work at sea.

My dad used to work for the Marine Department and he had many seafaring friends. It's a strange twist of fate. Now my brother is offshore and if things go well I will be to. My youngest brother is thinking about going too.

A long time ago when I was fresh out of Form 5, my dad suggested that we become seamen. Mom would have none of it. I had none of it either.

And now all these years later... It's funny when I think of it.

Obviously I don't want to tempt fate but if things keep progressing the way they have been, looks like Dad would get his wish finally.

One more week to go.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Golf Oscar Charlie

It's Tuesday night and two days into my GMDSS GOC course. There's a LOT to take in. The last two days have mostly been about theory and protocol. We start hands on sessions tomorrow.

There's a LOT to take in. Not only that I've discovered other facets of the radio operator's job that quite frankly makes me nervous.

It's a fascinating subject though. Who knew there were so many things to learn about radio communications and maritime safety, where the radio officer plays a very, very vital part.

The thought of working at sea is quite daunting. I've spent my whole life working in cubicles. This is going to be something else. I'm also very intrigued by it. I'm suddenly thinking if I successfully find work in oil and gas I'll gain experience with which I could qualify for other work. Like on merchant vessels. Big ones. Ones that weight half a million tons and spend six months at sea at any one time.

Or cruise vessels.

Might be fun. And lucrative.

There are 11 people in my class and some of them are already employed. They were sent there by their employers to gain GOC qualifications for radio officer's posts. Lots of interesting stories they have. Some have been on (and are going back to) oil rigs. Some are seamen looking for promotion. A few are noobs like myself.

Very interesting people.

I have some thoughts after these two days.

First, you know all those times we watch movies and documentaries and there are people talking on the radio? Now those radio conversations make a whole lot more sense. Yes, we do learn that special language that radio people use.

Second, never in my entire life would I have thought that the knowledge I gained from playing flight sims and maritime/naval sims (remember Silent Hunter 4? Aces of The Deep? New Horizons?) would actually benefit me in real life. A lot of the things that the instructor (who is quite possibly the best teacher I've ever met. Seriously) shows us, I in fact already know... From games. Things like navigation terms, maritime units and what 5-by-5 means.

Third, talking on a radio looks and sounds simple but I'm discovering that there is a lot more depth and protocol to it than I could ever have imagined. Plus I must learn how to operate a very large number of electronic equipment. It's both frightening and fascinating at the same time. The responsibilties of the radio operator is huge and no mistakes will be tolerated. But if I become a good one I can work anywhere in the maritime world.

Anywhere. $$

Fourth, it's day two of my training and I still can't believe I'm actually doing it.

There's still a long way to go though. I need to pass this course and then go to another town to get another certificate before I can even set foot on a vessel/barge/rig.

I'm going to need all the luck I can muster...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A New Life

I like Sibu. It's a little cramped and the traffic is chaotic but there is a certain air of quaintness around it. The food is excellent.

I'm staying at my friend's former employer's house. The house is beautiful. And they have wifi. Our hostess has been nothing but nice to us.

By the way, there are two people on this trip. Me and my friend.

I start my GMDSS GOC course tomorrow so I don't think I'll be going anywhere tonight. Maybe dinner.

We arrived here yesterday afternoon. Let me say that getting here by express boat is much, much more comfortable than by bus. I stayed topside the entire trip. It was great. I could walk around, smoke cigarettes, enjoy the view and take some pictures. The trip took four hours. Imagine if we had stuck to our original plan and used the bus. The trip would have taken 6-7 hours and we'd be stuck on a bus the entire time. So the boat beats the bus. Except when the weather is bad.

The ticket costs 45 bucks. You can't book in advance. You just go to the Express Wharf in Pending (it's by the KPA building) board the boat and choose a seat. When the boat gets underway, a conductor will go around. You pay the man and take your ticket. Do not lose the ticket. Later they will check you again.

I enjoyed the trip very much. So if you're thinking about going to Sibu consider taking the express boat. It's very cool.

We went to a bar last night to meet up with my friend's friend who happens to be the Chief Officer on board a service vessel. We got some great tips on life at sea and heard some really good stories. Very cool guy. He promised to back us up if we're interested in joining his company.

There are in fact many, many, many companies working at sea whether in oil and gas or merchant shipping. Also true is the fact that not a lot of people want to lead a seaman's life. That's good news for me. Less competition.

Well, there you go. This is the start of a new part of my life. I'm hoping it will be a successful part.

Right now, I'm thinking about what I was doing at work last week. It's been only a few days but it feels like a lifetime ago.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

In Sibu

No time to write much but I'm in Sibu. We arrived at 1.30pm. Had one hell of a boat ride. Will write more about that when I can find the time.

I'm in our hostess' house here. It's a lovely house.

Going out to dinner. Will write more later.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Moving Off The Line

I'm officially unemployed as off 1900 yesterday evening.

It was a weird day. I was busy like hell. A lot of stuff to do. I had so many things to do I had no time to blog. I had wanted to blog from the office one final time. You know, for dramatic effect.

My colleagues organised a little do for lunch. It was nice.

Yes, it was also a very nice day.

I got to the end of day very quickly. It was a busy day. Mercifully by 5.00pm everything had petered out and by 6 I was alone. As the day drew to a close, I had this heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I guess it hit me at that moment. I'm never coming back there again.

My night shift colleague arrived a few minutes before 7 and we chatted for a bit. When the time came, he followed me out so that I could pass him my ID badge.

I walked out to my car and drove off with one final glance into the rear view mirror. It's an odd feeling knowing I can't go there anymore.

I like to complain about my luck but in some cases I've actually been very, very lucky. Like with my last job. I really enjoyed it and it was something I was good at. My colleagues in the IT dept are the best people anyone could wish to serve alongside off. I'm lucky to have known them. I learnt a lot from them.

I worked there six years. A lot of things happened in those six years.

I can only hope my luck will hold out for my next job, whatever that is.

I had a pretty madcap week before yesterday. I spent two days running around renewing my passport. While doing that, I discovered that my birth certificate went missing. I had misread a line in the passport receipt that I thought said you need your birth cert to pick up your passport. My dad insisted that it was the case too. I went around and did a new one. It involved a lot of driving and some time in the Gita police station to do a report.

Later, it turns out that you DO NOT have to bring a birth cert to renew a passport. The procedure is either you bring your MyKad OR your birth cert...

Well, at least I know now.

By the way, the staff at JPN and Immigration did a great job. No bullshit, no excessive waiting, no run around. Service was top notch. Even the cop that took my report was nice.

So congratulations to them all for a job well done.

I did make it a point to make my requests and ask my questions very clearly. I know this helps the counter staff to do their job. In six years of helpdesk experience I know how important it is to state things clearly and properly and to follow procedures. You'd think that this is easy and goes without saying right? Believe me, there are many, many, many people who don't know how to talk properly and convey information clearly. Believe you me, it's infuriating to deal with idiots. Seriously.

Well, my first business as an unemployed person is go see my insurance guy and pick up 1 grand check. I'm going to need that money when I hit Sibu tomorrow afternoon...

I also have 2 computers to fix.

Yep, I'm jobless yet I'm still busy...