I came through '86, and the three "nights of the long knives" which preceded it, starting to lose staff selectively around 1980 onwards. I was actually seconded to BUE anchor handlers for 12 months, so was completely out of the loop - came home January from the North Sea run, and saw a 1-minute clip on the lunchtime news - first news I'd had. All the Office phones were "off the hook" for days; even the Union couldn't make contact. I have to say, in the couple of weeks thereafter, I chased a number of alternative jobs at sea, but as soon as you got to "who was your previous company", the phone went dead. Word was out, I still believe.
Anyhow, I stuck it out, and am still here. Terms and conditions are about level with the field, so unless you have a serious beef with the management, or a yen to try different trades or tonnage, there's not a lot of point moving at my time of life.
So, where are we now?
Some 55 or so ships, plus 4 Chinese Steam LNG's on a manning/training agreement.
Officers are a mixture of Brits, Polish, with one or two Kiwi, a couple of Aussies, and a lot of Southern Irish lads.
Crews are universally Filipino (Chinese LNG are a completely different deal).
The first maybe two years after the change of life saw some real rough staff all round, but they were relatively quickly weeded out, and the three-agency deal came down to one, Dorchester maritime, after around 4 years. They were finally dropped about 3 years ago, BP now having their own agency, BPMS - BP Maritime Services, working out of Singapore, with an IOM Office.
We are still regarded by the Office as BP employees, while remaining exclusively on "Agency" terms and conditions. Pensions, redundancy, etc, all finished in 86, and won't be back.
On top of that, there are still selected managers who feel that all the 86 crowd should be dumped for "souring the pot" for the new guys.
I love that - "stop calling us heartless, or you're all fired".
Anyhow, with not more than a couple more years to run, it's not such a bad place to be, and there's always other outfits for a Senior British ticket, so there's a lot less angst about the whole affair than there was in the old days.
And it's true enough; the radical shake-up did save the company - it ran down to about 20 ships for some years (aforementioned Gas Enterprise virtually kept it running; everything lost money at the time). But conditions could have eased as the recovery came in..but those same senior managers who hate us remembering 86 still keep to the 86 principle themselves - don't get into that position again, vis-a-vis Group terms, pensions, etc. Upshot is that the whole outfit now owns zero ships (all bareboat chartered), employs zero staff (all Agency), and owns zero offices (all now Group Offices) - the whole lot could disappear overnight at the stroke of an accountants pen.
So there we stand. Roll on retirement!