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A Rope Access Career From 5 Minutes In...

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Hi everyone, I've started this thread to chronicle my exploits in Rope Access, and hopefully some of you find that it sheds some light on the realities of our industry. I'm relatively new to this indu

That's me on the ship, far right of the group on the open hatch. Got this photo off of another published website. That Merc is hanging underneath the chopper.


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One day I came across the Maritime NZ Incident Log and it's cache of high resolution images from the Rena incident. I slowly trolled through each picture until I finally found what I was looking for. A picture of a salvor, wearing a Petzl harness, that I could blow up enough to read the company name of his shirt. Googled the company name, found an email address, and sent away a cover letter and CV written especially for the job.


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Guest knot4thelifeofme

Good s*** mate, your onto it.

Just goes to show, in our industry it is amazing what can present itself if we're willing to work for it, and willing to look for it.

I was wondering who the fellas were working on the temporary stand at Eden park, was an impressive set up.

Shame to hear you claim to have encountered a lack of professionalism across the board on that project.

Theivery is one of the most aggrivating things to encounter at work. Especially when you work hard to buy your own tools, and some moron decides he deserves a five fingure discount at your expense. And it's sad sometimes it only takes a couple of bad eggs to send a salad sour.

I think I know where your coming from, I've been the new guy many times, from my experience s*** always falls down and it's the new fella footing the ladder that's gonna get hit, the trick is not to let the s*** hit ya, but not let go of that ladder just in case the long timers standing on it fall, and land in the s***.

End of the day it all adds to our knowledge of the industry. I've been taught honesty as the best option, operate with integrity.

Well I'm inspired, keep it up mate. All the best with your career.



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You have done very well for yourself and you will go far in this game, it really sucks the way you were treated by your previous employer, but as they say karma sucks and I have given them the boot from my site, stealing and cheating doesnt sit well with me. If your looking for a permanent job go and see Technical Rigging Services, they are a great company, I use them all the time and they are currently looking for guys just like you.

Edited by paultherigger
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WOW - what a great first post, well done.

I have a feeling the error would have been caused by the page log in timing out before you got a chance to post. This can sometimes happen with long posts (I'll have one of our team take a look into this for you).

Just when I thought I'd heard all the tricks in the book about finding work you go ahead and pull that one. Who honestly would have though about zooming in on that photo to find the company name, totally inspired.

You sound like you are getting off on the right foot, your skill set at the time was ideally matched to the salvage job - it almost looks like it was made for you. I know that Manny has been reading this, and I know that you have read Mannys blog, that should give you a great idea on just how far you can take this if you apply yourself and believe in your capabilities.

We'd like to wish you good luck on your journey, we're looking forward to sharing it with you.

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Thanks guys, what a great response! I'm really stoked to be part of this community, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Knot - I think I'll keep the aforementioned company's name out of this, I think it could be bad form to name and shame. As Paul said their particular style hasn't gone unnoticed and life has a way of dealing to those issues without me chipping in. Hopefully some changes are made, and some positivity comes of it. There are some good guys working there, so for their sake at least I hope the situation improves. Where abouts in NZ are you located? I'm in the central North Island, maybe we'll cross paths in the near future.

Paul - Thank you for the tip, I think I'll be staying on with my current mob as we're looking busy and the crew is awesome. I have a casual contract that encourages working for other outfits when things are quiet, so I'll probably get in touch with them anyways.

Manny & Admin - Thanks for your support and advice so far, I'm hoping that I'll be able to buy you both a beer someday.

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Well, in the last week we've had some excellent surf and my phone has been pretty quiet. Needless to say I wasn't rarking up the boss to put me to work, instead I put ALOT of miles on the car and chased some very tasty waves. East coast, west coast, a little north, a little south. I'm so lucky to live in a country with 360 degrees of swell angle within a few hours drive! I scored some good ones and had a few classic road trip moments, including seeing the mythical Motu firing on all 'cylinders'.

Back to the interesting stuff though, I've just started a small job for the Port of Tauranga, doing a little bit of remedial work on their largest coal shed. I should get a couple days out of it, and then I think I'll be completing an industrial first aid course. The best training provider I've found in my area is Meditrain out of Hamilton. The course is called Comprehensive Workplace First Aid, it costs $175 ($155 if paid five days before course date), takes twelve hours (eight in the classroom and four of pre-course reading), and covers Unit Standards 6400, 6401, and 6402.

  • 6400 - Manage first aid in emergency situations (level 3, 2 credits)
  • 6401 - Provide first aid (level 2, 1 credit)
  • 6402 - Provide resuscitation level 2 (level 1, 1 credit)

These are the ones that you'll need if you're working in heavily monitored and safety conscious sectors like energy or offshore. To put it in perspective, at my latest job for Mighty River Power we were audited twice in five days of work. That's a full stop work, ab' up out of the hole, and show me all your tickets and inductions ordeal (which took about two hours on average). I was allowed to continue working without my first aid ticket but only because I demonstrated my first aid knowledge to an acceptable level, everyone else in the crew had it, and we were under time constraints to finish. I don't want to be embarrassed like that again so best get it done!

After work today my colleague Adam and myself went down to visit the boys on the Smit Borneo, which is currently berthed at the Mount wharf. Word around the ice box is that we could be back to work on the Rena soon! The latest weather system we had really knocked it around, dislodging the aft section from the upper reef and shifting it further down the steep slope of Astrolabe Reef. Appearantly there were twelve metre waves at the wreck, and the force of the one wave was enough to pop and flip a twenty one tonne hatch lid onto the hatch next to it.


You can see the flyaway lid laying upside down, and a wave similar to one which propelled it skyward smashing into the hold below. The power of the sea never ceases to amaze. The photo of me surfing in the first post was taken during the two hours that the swell peaked, and was one of the biggest waves of the day at the relatively sheltered spot I was exploring. I reckon there's every chance it was the same wave!

Again, any questions or comments just fire away. I'll do my best to respond intelligently haha!

Edited by cylinders
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Gnarly pics man.

Yeah I hear that.

I'm based in Auckland for the moment, heading to the lower north island soon for a bit. Then off to the deep south, hopefully should be a bit of snow on the mountains by then.

Yeah bro should meet up sometime.

Hey have you done your HUET yet? Spose you would have for the Rena job a.

Anyway if you haven't and your interested I've tracked down a course In the South Island, it's reasonably priced. Depends on numbers is the thing.

I'm a while off it yet myself, but always good to plan in advance.

Sweet man enjoy the Rena, look forward to seeing some more pics.

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Hey Rob,

I've actually not yet got HUET. I'm planning to do my BOSIET later this year which includes a HUET course. I think M&O Pacific will be my preferred option for a training provider.

I've started assembling a list of the Unit Standards and courses that I want to complete this year... it's pretty long!

First Aid - Just booked with MediTrainWaikato, cost $155 for all three in one day.

  • 6400 Manage first aid in emergency situations.
  • 6401 Provide first aid.
  • 6402 Provide resuscitation

    Confined Space - currently trying to organise these, my colleague and I are hoping to create a confined space rescue team.
    • 18426 Hazards associated with confined space
    • 17599 Planning confined space entry
    • 14562 Perform specialist rescues in confined spaces
    • 3058 or 25510 Operate an atmospheric testing device
    • 3272 Wear and operate breathing apparatus in a general emergency
    • 25044 Wear and operate Compressed air breathing apparatus in the workplace

      General Safety & Management
      • 3271 Use hand fire extinguishers & fixed hose reel
      • 17600 Hazard ID
      • 17602 Apply hazard ID & risk assessment procedures
      • 17588 Permit reciever

        Offshore - Late 2012 or early 2013

        • OPITO BOSIET

        IRATA - September through 5th Point Australia (Wellington, NZ course)

        [*]IRATA Level 2

        Trade - My colleague's family have a welding school, so I'm hoping to spread some training out over the year with them.

        [*]4711 Welding ticket

        Whew, looking at that list is a bit daunting, I have prioritised it though so I reckon if I slowly knock them off I'll get there sooner than I expected.

        Rob, what is the South Island training provider you have in mind? I'll look them up and compare the options. Could be cool to get some time on the slopes like you say!

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Awsome man,

I'm working on compiling a similar plan at the moment, not quite as organized at this stage.

I will look into the OPITO BOSIET, cheers.

Welding would be good a, I've been looking at the courses run through the southern institute of technology, certificate in mechanical engineering level 2. It focuses on basic fabrication and welding, how to

read plans, introduction to metal types you and there are separate welding courses run in the evenings so you achieve the certifications in welding. The main course is run over 6 months. If your eligible

there no fees for the course so long as you pass and are present to 80% of it. Only catch is you have to live in Invercargill for 6 months, the last NZ city before Antarctica. lol.

I'm planning to do my Irata in May providing I can find the money. Otherwise I could be September as well!

Spose I should do a confined space course, I'd prefer not to but it could be a requirment for offshore? Will have to do some more research.

The HUET course is run in Mosgiel, it's just outside Dunedin, through Heli Otago http://www.helicoptersotago.co.nz/index.php

They run the Rescue chopper out of that hq, I have family working there. Good old Duds is my home land. Let me know how you get on comparing the options.

Yeah man love the slopes a, Queenstown is mint as. It's tricky catching the best of the season sometimes though a. Always good if your working in the area. Plenty of work in Christchurch, good rates, still

that's a 5-6 hour drive. Fellas down there been stabilizing the cliff faces with the earthquakes, pretty gnarly, wouldn't mind getting some geotech experience. Couple of contracts advertised in NZ for work in

Indonesia at the moment, mint as surf, could be all goods. Dunno how health and safety compares in a place like Indo though.

Hey have you had any luck getting onto NDT in NZ? I've been checking out HERA in Manukau Auckland, doesn't seem ideal, more or lease designed to assist industry based students. Looks like Ausi is the

best option a?

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I've worked a bit in Indonesia and the safety standards could best have been described as 'sporadic'. The safest stuff I saw was always with our own rope access teams, we spent a lot of time watching each others backs but in all the jobs I did there we never had a single mishap. Overall, it was a great place to work.

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Rob, those SIT courses sound good huh?! I haven't heard anything about the quality of education but it is a pretty awesome deal. I'm hoping to do my welding at Metalcraft Education in Kawerau... yes you read that right, Kawerau. I had better get myself some red t-shirts!

For your IRATA, give Leigh Greenwood a call at 5th Point Australia and tell him Colin sent you. They do regular courses in Wellington, about every 6 weeks I think. The venue is pretty central too, by Te Papa at Ferg's Kayaks. He's a real good sort, easy to learn from, and if you're already up to speed on most abseiling techniques they can usually run you through some advanced rescues and other scenarios outside your Level 1. Ask and you shall recieve. It would be cool if we were able to line up the same course, I have already got a mate that'll hopefully join me on my Level 2, it could be a messy graduation night!

Tom, working in Indo sounds like a dream come true! I've been talking to a couple guys in WA, they reckon it's cheaper to work in WA and take your time off in Indo than to stay around Perth or Margaret River.

Edited by cylinders
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  • 3 weeks later...

How's the work going? I'm heading out this weekend for several weeks to do some roller coaster inspections in Disneyland and Disneyworld!!

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Howdy Gents,

Disneyland! Sweet I've never been there but I hear good things.

Yeah works been going not too badly thanks for asking, had a solid month of high rise blasting and paint services.

Plus a couple of trainees which has been eventful and allowed for a slow down in pace which been well deserved.

Cylinders, Kawerau lol oh tru cuz too mechi au, lol yep that's bound to be red country.

Yeah I've done my loop rescues, and two man in ascension assessments, waiting for my horizontal lifeline to take place at this stage.

That's one aggravating thing about Rigg Access, in your profile you have to choose either Irata 1, 2 or 3. I'm presently NZ level 3.

But definitely am looking forward to advancing my skills, especially in hauling loads will pick the tutors brain most definitely.

Assessment later this year hauling 500kg loads that's with the NZ qualification, and if all goes to plan advancing to cliff face rescues.

Am curious as to what it would be like assisting search and rescue services.

Edited by knot4thelifeofme
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Assessment later this year hauling 500kg loads that's with the NZ qualification, and if all goes to plan advancing to cliff face rescues.
Great, you would not believe me if i said " a load over 25kg if working for Talisman (Client) has to be done under a lifting plan and not via ropes! yes indeed....25kg! seems like we can haul each other around all day but if its a lump of steel you need a lifting plan!

I am sure if you read the small print there is some justification for it but thats not following the rules of common sense!

Am curious as to what it would be like assisting search and rescue services.
I hope you have more luck in NZ them me in trying to work with the UK SAR teams, its a closed shop for empire builders and ours are not open to outsiders!

Bloody interesting work though if you have a chance as it really does open the mind to other possibilities, good luck.

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I have done some training and organised a few rescue abseils on the tower with our Auckland Central Fire Services High Angle Rescue teams, great bunch of guys and a solid unit once they are in operation, was great to see these guys go straight from the Christchurch earthquake recovery over to Japan to assist with the tsunami.

Great thing over here is the training available to those who want to serve the community in search and rescue.

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Hi guys,

I am still out here on Shutter Island, got one week left to go and then it's time for a week's rest. I came out with a small group of riggers to get our cargo removal kick-started again. In the last three weeks we've accomplished alot, and had zero accidents, continuing the company's spotless record to date.

We have cut some large twenty six tonne hatch lids into three tonne pieces, to facilitate their removal by helicopter. After that we've been selecting certain cargoes for removal, a high priority item was the removal of a Christchurch family's personal belongings which were in a twenty foot container along with their Mercedes e200. It was very interesting and challenging project but we lifted the car without a scratch, out of a deep hold on a twenty two degree list.

So in a weeks time I finally fall into my rotation for two weeks on, one week off, and I must say I am looking forward to some surf!

Interestingly, I had a job offer over the phone today from an engineering firm involved in wind farm projects. I am going to stay in contact with them but continue on with my current lot. Better to build a bridge and maintain another, than to build one and burn one. Plus, I have a very flexible contract which does allow me to work with other businesses. Wind energy is something which stokes me up, I feel I have a relevant skill set being comfortable with composites, and it can only get bigger as an industry for the future. So maybe, if the timing is right I'll be able to help them out.

Manny, can you get a picture with Mickey? Or maybe a reference signed off by Goofy? It'd be great for the resume...

Stoked to see all you guys contributing here, it makes this alot more interesting for me. Have fun out there and stay sharp!

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  • 5 weeks later...

An update!

I have finished at the Rena, and I'm currently working on a bridge widening in Hamilton.

I did a 4 week stint at the Rena, which was awesome if slightly monotonous. We achieved alot, and set the stage for the next phase of the salvage to go ahead smoothly. Removed ALOT of aluminium ingots and other cargo. Now they've moved into a cut and drop mentality, bringing in some specialised cutters from overseas who've been reducing the size of the wreck every day.

I was lucky in that when I left the Rena I had some work lined up for me by the boss right away. Drove to Taupo pretty much immediately after coming back to dry land, with only enough time to buy myself an Iphone and have a sandwich. The Taupo job was really interesting as it gave me an insight into something that I've been planning to do add to my skill set for a while now. The brief was to strengthen a coms tower to handle the increased load of hardware from a network upgrade (4G). This involved welding strengthening components onto the tower, as well as new guy wire collars. I worked with a certed welder from our company, supervising him on the ropes, doing his prep work, and overseeing the rigging on the site. It was particularly cold up there, with a nice southerly blast timing itself with our arrival, but it did make for some nice views as you can see...


IMG_0003 by colinrossmacleod, on Flickr

After the Taupo job I was assigned to a bridge widening project in Hamilton. The Pukete Bridge is being widened from two lanes to four, with the use of steel clip-on frames. Even though the bridge was built recently, being completed in 1996, it seems that there was a general lack of foresight regarding Hamiltons growth as a city, and the Pukete Bridge is now a traffic choke point.

Here's something that may interest new-comers to the abseiling game. Even though I am principally hired as an abseiler by my employer, my contract includes a clause which allows them to change my job description from job to job as required. On this job I am employed as a Rigger and this comes with a large decrease in my hourly rate. It is a trade off that has it's pros and cons. If I stuck to my abseiler job description, I would have the benefit of a higher hourly rate, but my employer would be less likely to give me work when he doesn't expressly require my skills. This way, I am able to gain some useful experience in another relevant industry (rigging) and I am kept busy with work when the abseiling goes quiet.

It does take a little humble pie to get over the fact that you're a qualified individual with useful skills and a specialised attiitude, yada yada yada, but in the end I think that this option is a good one for abseilers working on a casual basis within diversified companies.

In other news, I am contemplating a change in the near future, looking for the move that will help me towards my goals. In all honesty I think that if I stay where I am now I won't progress much for the rest of the year. My short term goal is to become employable in the offshore sector, and I need some defferent things to achieve this. Any advice on this will be much appreciated!

Here are the options that I'm exploring right now;

1. Gain a AS/NZS2980 welding ticket in Arc and Mig with Overhead, Vertical and Downhand positions

2. Gain experience in Ultrasonic and other NDT methods

And a definite advancement will be gaining my IRATA Level 2 sometime later in the year with 5th Point, as a month or so ago I cracked my thousand... currently sitting on 1250 hours!

Here's my first Mig weld, done under the supervision of our head of engineering after work earlier this week.


IMG_0016 by colinrossmacleod, on Flickr

So any advice from seasoned offshore abseilers and interested observers? How about you Manny, how are ya?

Hope everyone is well and busy, regards,


PS - Got some waves in the last few weeks, including the wave of my life at our local Matakana Island. Got an arms-in-the-air stand up barrel with some of the boys from Bodyline Wetsuits. Here's a shot from a rare empty day at Raglan I had too.


IMG_0011 by colinrossmacleod, on Flickr

Edited by cylinders
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  • 4 weeks later...


So back in the first post I mentioned breifly that one of my goals for the year was to get a visa for my partner Kat, well on Friday she rang me to say that she had in her hot little hand a 2 year work visa from Immigration New Zealand!

We had heard all manner of horror stories about how long these partner sponsored visas can take to get (3 - 6 months from application), one person even told me not to bother at all! So we both worked hard for 4 months to gather all the paperwork and documents from around the world (Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). We also had the great support of our family and friends who all wrote excellent letters of reference and confirmation of our relationship. It took INZ only one week to decide they wanted Kat back here!


on the porch by colinrossmacleod, on Flickr

I know us rope techs can be a roving and rambling bunch, so if any of you kiwi tech's have managed to wrangle yourself a foriegn beauty and you are trying to bring her back here, hit me up and I can give you advice on how to navigate the confusing and confounding labyrinth-like system of visa applications.

I am so stoked.


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It's such a good bit of news, well worth all that hard work and effort. Hopefully you can get a little time off too and spend some time 'catching up' with each other!

On a bit of a side note, your MIG weld on the photo above was first class - well done on that too!

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