The ins and outs of offshore accommodation

Accommodation for offshore workers needs to provide comfort and flexibility while meeting strict safety requirements and being able to withstand harsh operating environments. Molly Lempriere speaks to Hans Gatzemeier, managing director of ELA Container Offshore, about the challenges of providing offshore accommodation and how demands have changed in ELA’s 40 years in the industry.


Offshore accommodation can be a challenge, as oil and gas companies often need to house a large crew in a limited space. This has pushed companies to create innovative living spaces for those working on offshore installations.

ELA Container Offshore is one such company; its container-based living blocks provide a flexible alternative to fixed accommodation. These containers come in a host of varieties, providing not just sleeping quarters but galleys, offices, mess rooms and laundries which can be lifted on to and removed from a rig, transformer platform or other offshore facilities. 

Founded in 1972, ELA has grown to include more than 550 employees, who see projects through from construction to habitation. The company ensures flexibility by having 22,000 containers ready for rental in its container park.

ELA Offshore managing director Hans Gatzemeier talks about how the industry has changed since the company was founded, the demands unique to the offshore environment and ELA’s approach to the challenges of offshore accommodation.

Molly Lempriere: How have crews traditionally been housed offshore?

Hans Gatzemeier: Some large installation vessels integrated the accommodation space needed for their crew in the vessel design. However, platforms and vessels, such as jack-up vessels and barges, are constantly required to adjust their accommodation facilities on demand and to each project, depending on the number of people needed.

Previously crews were simply housed in the integrated accommodation space available on board and projects were dependent on the amount of space available.

ML: What innovations have changed this?

HG: After a growing demand for more flexible and temporary solutions for housing offshore crews, the concept of temporary living quarters in container form came into existence. These accommodation containers offer offshore projects the flexibility that is required, but also provide more possibilities regarding the faster completion of projects, since project managers are no longer bound to the available accommodation space integrated in a vessel design.

ML: Do companies expect more from accommodation now than they have in the past?

HG: Yes, companies definitely expect more from accommodation now than they have in the past. Companies’ expectations regarding safety and quality of living for their crew have grown significantly. The importance of offshore certification has especially grown. Hence, the reason to produce offshore containers according to all international quality standards, possessing all necessary certifications such as DNV 2.7-1 / EN 12079-1, DNV 2.7-2, based on SOLAS, IMO FSS Code and MLC as well as CSC, and approved by several IACS companies.

"Companies’ expectations regarding safety and quality of living for their crew have grown significantly."

Companies expect better quality of living for their crews, so we decided to set a new standard in terms of quality of living and comfort. The beds and cabinets have a modern wooden look and yacht flooring is more comfortable and improves the ‘feel-good factor’.

Additionally, quality of living has improved significantly as a result of more square metres of available space per person and more leisure activities thanks to containers that can be equipped as gyms, recreation rooms and much more.

ML: What is the biggest challenge your containers will face when offshore?

HG: The biggest challenge our containers face when going offshore is the rough weather conditions. However, containers are coated with special C5M water resistant coating. Also, the HVAC box on the outside of our containers is protected with special grating, so they cannot be damaged.

Another big challenge our containers have to face is offshore lifting, so our containers are easy to handle with a low tare weight of 6.5 / 7.7 t, which can be lifted by almost every platform or vessel crane. Furthermore, our containers are certified for offshore lifting, meaning it is safe to lift them with an appropriate lifting set and crane.

ML: What are the specific benefits of ELA’s designs?

HG: The biggest benefits of our container’s design are its standard 20ft High-Cube ISO Norm R-668 standard dimensions. By working with one base type with various accommodation solutions, container units can easily be added, removed or switched and quickly connected into an existing ELA accommodation complex.

"By working with one base type with various accommodation solutions, container units can easily be added, removed or switched."

Thanks to the 20ft ISO Norm, CSC measurements, our containers can be delivered at low costs and within a minimum of time. The containers provide enough space for two separate living rooms to increase the comfort factor and offer some privacy.

Lastly, all our containers are ready for immediate use after being connected to the electrical circuit board system as well as the fresh and waste water systems.

ML: How quickly can accommodation be added to offshore platforms? Why is it important that their use is flexible?

HG: We offer our customers the concept of ‘flexibility on demand’. This means that we make sure that we have at least 100 units in stock at any time that are ready for immediate delivery. As mentioned before, our container units can easily be added, removed or switched and quickly connected.

This high flexibility is very important, because offshore projects are often planned within a small time frame and the exact amount of people needed to complete a project is decided last-minute and can change during the project.

ML: Through ELA’s more than 40 years, how has the company changed?

HG: In the past we also realised the need for turnkey delivery. More and more clients want to have the units delivered, installed and handed over turnkey. With our own offshore trained staff we can assist or complete assembling and disassembling of any project, no matter the location.

ELA Offshore delivers an all-round service, to save customers as much time and stress as possible. From assembly by our offshore trained staff, certification of containers and equipping them to meet every customer demand.

Additionally, we can provide Offshore Cargo Carrying Units and Custom Made Containers to be able to offer our client a ‘full service package’.