Jumping Off a Drilling Platform Into the Deep Blue Sea

Every day it seems I hear about how this never-ending oil slump is affecting major corporations worth millions of dollars. But what about “the little guy?” What about those mom and pop companies that service the oil industry; the independent contractors that are hard-pressed for work; the small start ups that unknowingly chose a bad time to start up? How are those folks getting along during this very trying time?

A friend of mine owns an extended stay facility in Yorktown, Texas, located in the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale. This time last year her business was booming! She had a pretty sweet set up for folks that worked in the oil patch. Her full-service hotel had been providing them with a home away from home and there was always a “No Vacancy” sign outside the lobby door.

Today there are only four patrons that stay at her hotel. The rest of her rooms are empty – waiting for this slump to subside. She is considering selling her home to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of those empty rooms in hopes that it will keep her afloat until the prices go up again.

Then there’s a young start-up company another friend used to work for. That young entrepreneurship unknowingly chose a hard time to start a support business to the oil field – just a few months short of when the price per barrel began to drop. Try as they might, my friend’s company was making some headway. In a different time, in a different year, they would have surely skyrocketed all the way to the top!

But instead, last week, their financial backer decided to pull the plug and bow out. He had his own financial investment to think about. I can’t say I blame him, but his manner of doing so left much to be desired. From one day to the next, this young start-up company of 12 found themselves without a paycheck, without medical benefits and without a severance package. Today, they are all out of work – dramatic life-changing affects, one and all.

I’m new to the oil industry, and this is the first oil crisis I have gone through. Everyone tells me that it’s only a matter of time before the pendulum moves in the opposite direction. But sometimes I wonder how long this crisis can last. This time last year, I was traveling all over the world providing technical instruction to the oil and gas industry.

Today I find myself back at sea, relying on my maritime background to provide me with some financial support. I sailed on merchant vessels for over 20 years, and when I retired back in 2010, I never thought I would find a desire, or a need, to return to sea again. But due to the slow down I’ve experienced, I didn’t have much of a choice.

Unlike my friends, I am fortunate because the state of the oil industry has not had that dramatic effect in the maritime industry. Within two weeks of deciding I had to return to sea, I found myself gainfully employed aboard the M/V Mokihana out of lovely Honolulu, Hawaii.

Believe it or not, I’d much rather be back home in Texas working as the Technical Instructor that I now am. I’m hopeful when I return I will find that the oil prices are on the rise; that my friend’s hotel is hanging a “No Vacancy” sign on her door once again and that my friend and his co-workers have all found new jobs. All those outcomes, of course, are determined by the price of the barrel.

As always, high risk equals high reward, but with high risk comes high uncertainty. So for the time being, all we can do is buckle down, wait it out, and hope. One can always hope.

Global Petroleum Show

Jo Ann Cantú is the President of Cantu Maritime Consulting, Inc. For more information, call 832-845-1836 or email joann@cantumaritimeconsulting.com. Website: www.cantumaritimeconsulting.com