Meet the Team

Meet the Team

Houston’s position in the world of energy, from oil and gas to the developing realm of renewables, means it has become a key area of operations for the maritime sector.  For Erik Oberlin, Brookes Bell’s latest Managing Master Mariner based in Houston, the maritime energy business provided a critical opening for him to become one of the world’s leading offshore specialists. 

Erik graduated from Texas A&M Maritime Academy in Galveston in 1997 and immediately set out to sea, joining Noble Drilling, an oil drilling contractor, where he worked as a Ballast Control Operator in the North Sea.  His capabilities then took him around the world, including off the coast of Africa, Brazil, Southeast Asia and the Gulf of Mexico, working as a Dynamic Positioning (DP) Operator and Chief Mate onboard various semi-submersible rigs.

In 2008, he worked as a Master/Offshore Installation Manager for Seadrill in Brazil before joining Rowan Companies in South Korea in 2012.  Following an extensive career at sea, Erik came ashore in 2015 and joined Marathon Oil Corporation in Houston, Texas as a Corporate Marine Superintendent.  In this role, Erik supervised all manner of logistics and safety activities for global marine activity and worked to ensure all offshore operations conformed to domestic and international regulatory standards.

Following further positions as a Consultant and as Audit Chief with the State of Vermont Agency of Transportation, Erik joined 3D Marine, Brookes Bell’s bespoke consulting business in the Americas, in September 2023 as a Managing Master Mariner.

Reflecting on his career to date, he noted that his time working onboard offshore drilling rigs was unlike anything he’d ever experienced before. “Normal ships run with small crews and to be honest, not much really happens out at sea.  It’s the complete opposite in the drilling industry.  You can have a few hundred people onboard at a time and drilling activities run 24 hours a day in dangerous and challenging conditions,” Erik said.

“No matter the role I had on board a semi-sub, either as a Master or an Offshore Installation Manager, the work was intense because of the scale of these vessels and their operations.  You would find yourself working 15-hour days, managing the flow of technical specialists arriving and leaving the vessel and engaging with clients to ensure everything ran smoothly.  This meant I would often be the focal point of activity on board a semi-sub.  It was like being the mayor of a small town.”  

Erik highlighted that compliance work was a vital part of his experience, particularly when working as a Chief Mate on a drilling rig. “You inevitably have a lot of auditing activity.  Local regulatory agencies want to ensure you’re operating to their own laws and regulations, while the oil companies that operate the rigs are often on board running their own internal audits.

Understanding the size and scale of compliance needed on board these massive vessels is crucial to keep them operating effectively.  It requires rigorous attention to detail to ensure safety standards are met, secure the financial interests of Operators and ultimately ensure the vessel remains seaworthy,” he said.

This knowledge of compliance is what ultimately led Erik to join Brookes Bell’s team in Houston, which remains the energy capital of the world.  3D Marine has recently been on the lookout for dynamic experts to join their team as they look to expand their services and offerings, particularly in the energy sector and Erik noted that the opportunity felt like an ideal fit.

“Brookes Bell liked the experience that I had in the offshore sector, but this is a fantastic opportunity to be a part of a substantial team of technical experts across a broad number of sectors to learn more about this business.  This is chance for me to learn and adapt my own skills as part of Brookes Bell, but also to bring my own experience and perspectives in the technical aspects of offshore to the team,” he said.

For Erik, one of the most interesting aspects of his role as a Managing Master Mariner at Brookes Bell is the chance to ensure he keeps his ‘sea legs’. “Being able to do case work on board vessels helps you to keep connected to your origins.  The danger is when people go shoreside, they inevitably lose the chance to get back out to sea and can lose touch with their roots.  However, being able to get out onto a vessel helps me to stay connected with that part of my life, which was so important to help me get to where I am today,” he added.

Despite a career built on oil and gas, Erik noted that the development of renewable offshore wind is one area that he is particularly interested in going forward. “There is a whole aspect of maritime business that is starting to rotate around offshore wind so being able to apply my skills and experience in offshore drilling to that sector, which is ultimately better for the planet, would be very interesting.”

Andrew Yarwood
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