Global Manufacturing Engineers – My Upcoming Summer in Kazakhstan

This post, which I intend to periodically update over the next 6 weeks or so, is primarily intended for the six Designs Engineers from Global Manufacturing (Refining) who have accepted two-rotation loan assignments to support our SGP/SGI Turnaround that occurs in August 2012.  You are welcome to share this with your family and friends so they realize you are not going on some exoctic boondoogle, but instead will be helping out at a “far away” facility that has many similiarities to the one you work in right now.

Preparation for your Rotations

You must complete and pass a medical examination, submit both Visa and RoK Letter of Invitations, and complete a TCO badge request before you can travel to Tengiz.  As you know, this information was provided in your Job Offer Letter (JOT) and follow-up communicatin which is handled by our Expat Counsler.  We have traded numerous emails about this subject – send me another email if you have any further questions.  There are also Expat and Tax orientations you should complete before your first rotation – all this in emails you have received.

Within the “Post Acceptance Outreach” email you received from the Expat Counselor, after you accepted your job offer, you received a document titled “Tengizchevroil Visitor Arrival Guide.”  Please read this guide – the following is intended to supplement this guide and provide additional information to help you in your initial travel.

Travel Arrangements

Make two sets of round trip reservations from your originating airport to Atyrau, Kazakhstan.  The first leg ends in Amsterdam (AMS) and the second leg goes from AMS to Atyrua, Kazakhstan (GUW).  You are allowed to book the travel via business class.  Many people use KLM to get to Amsterdam as this is their primary hub – KLM is a partner with Delta.  But you can fly other airlines as well – you just need to get to Amsterdam by about 10 am in the morning.

There is an Air Astana flight that departs from AMS to GUW every day (at least Monday through Friday) at 12:20 pm.  This is the flight we all take to get in, so you need to make your reservations ASAP to get a seat on this flight (they are expected to fill up around the turnaround time).

Use Carlson Wagonlit travel in Kazakhstan.  I sent you separate information via email regarding making two separate reservations for this rotation.

You are allowed $150 for incidentals associated with the travel; will be paid in your paycheck – you do not need to keep receipts for this incidental costs (i.e, taxi to / from originating airport, miscellaneous meals, etc.).

Getting to Atyrau, Kazakhstan

Once you have done this trip a few times you will know the ropes; but since you will only make two trips over here the following is intended to smooth the way and minimize your stress while you get in and out of Tengiz.

If you have more than one bag check it all the way through to Atyrau (airport code GUW).  You are allowed one carry on; most people have a carryon and a backpack that they can take on both the international flight (from your originating airport to Amsterdam) and the flight from Amsterdam to Atyrau.

Amsterdam Tips

When you arrive in Amsterdam go to Tansfer Station T-5 (also known as the Menzies Transit desk) to get checked in for your Air Astana flight to Atyrau, Kazakhstan.  T-4 / T-5 are at the beginning of the D gates (Concourse D).  There are two “halves” to T-4 / T-5; the T-4 front desk is for KLM transfers and the T-5 back desk is for the regional airlines, Air Astana being one of them.  You may have already been ticketed all the way through but it is a good idea to check here to make sure you are on the flight to Atyrau.  (I always need to check in as they do not issue my boarding pass for Air Astana in San Francisco but have heard that others have recieved this boarding pass at their originating airport).

Once you are checked into your flight to Atyrau you can go relax in one of the airline lounges – since you are in business class you get this perk.  When you check in at the Air Astana desk they will write you a pass for the Menzies lounge.  If you travel on KLM (which I do) you are allowed to go use their lounge, which I prefer.  You just need to show the KLM lounge front desk your boarding pass for the flight you took into Amsterdam (hang on to it) – they may ask to see your next flight boarding pass but just tell them you have heard their lounge is better.  The KLM Crown Lounge (52) and the Menzies (Air Astana) Lounge (26 I think) are near the Departures 1 Area, down a long corridor from the D gates.

Here is a link to the Schiphol Amsterdam Airport website:

The layover is typically longer on your trip in then on your trip out (at least it is for me).  Now is the time to shop for a few trinkets that you can bring back to your family.  There are no gift shops in Tengiz; not much in Atyrau either.  Anyway, you have a couple hour layover so may enjoy using the time to browse around the Schiphol airport.

Tip from Alex Delia: if you use the KLM lounge you are allowed to take a shower during your layover.  Once you into the KLM lounge go immediately to the desks behind the front desk, and ask to be put on the waiting list for a shower.   You may need to wait an hour or so but you eventually you will be called and given access to a private shower room.  Alex says this is definately the way to go.

The KLM lounge also has WiFi available – the code is on a placard on one of the back desks.  You will see many people hanging out with their laptops and other electronics throughout the lounge.  If any of your electronics are running low on juice this is the time to recharge them.  Remember, you need a European adaptor to plug in your electronics – suggest you pick up a pair at Radio Shack.

And Now to Kazakhstan

As mentioned in travel arrangements you will catch a flight from Amsterdam to Atyrau, departs at 12:20 pm and arrives about 8:30 pm local time.  Flight is about 4-1/2 hours.  While on this flight you will be given a “Migration Card” to fill out.  It is a small white form that is the size of your passport.  DO NOT LOSE THIS CARD as you need it to get out of Kazakhstan.  Here are instructions on how to fill out:

  1. Upper right where it says “No.”: enter your USA Passport Number
  2. Surname: enter your last name
  3. Given names: enter your first name
  4. Purpose of visit: enter “Work”
  5. Inviting person (organization): enter “TCO”
  6. Signature: self-explanatory

Arrival in Atyrau

This is a small airport; you get off the 767 onto the runway and take a bus to the terminal which is about a 2 minute ride away (you can see the terminal, they don’t let you walk due to safety concerns).   You will enter the airport along with the rest of the crowd, and que up for Passport Control / Customs.  People all rush off this bus and quickly get in line.  For your FIRST trip in do not rush, as you will need to get your Visa before you can go through the Passport Control line.  When you enter the terminal the Visa desk is immediately to your right – you will probably have to wait a few minutes before anyone will come over and issue you Visas.  You need to give them your Passport, your completed Visa application, TCO Letter of Invitation, passport photos, and your Migration Card.  Be patient, it might take a while.

Once you have your Visa you get in line to go through Passport Control / Customs (where everyone else lined up when they entered the terminal).  By the time you get your Visa the line should be down and it should take a few minutes to get through Customs.  There is a camera at the top of the wall behind the Customs agent – you need to look straight into it as they will take your picture.  The agents do not talk much, just slide them all your paperwork and look up at the camera.  On the other side of the Customs booths is the small baggage area.  You grab your luggage and then go through a luggage scanning area.  You do not need to take off belts or shoes, they are just looking for “contraband” or luxuries you may be bringing into the country to sell.  You may be pulled aside and have your baggage searched.  Please note that if you bring a laptop or Ipad with you they may ask for proof that you own it, and that you are not bringing it into the country to sell.  It is recommended that you bring a copy of your purchase receipt to show the Customs Agent in case you are asked.

I have heard that some people have been searched and questioned about any prescription medicine they are bringing in; again they are concerned about contraband or stuff that people can sell.  The suggestion is to put anything you need in non-labeled containers, or label it as vitamins, allergy medicine, etc.

Please note that the Atyrau airport has free Wi-Fi; if you have electronics that are Wi-Fi compatible then you can connect here.  Please note there is no Wi-Fi at the ATH or in Tengiz – this is the last time you can connect for the rest of your rotation, at least through Wi-Fi.  I use my Iphone to send a quick email to my family letting them know I have arrived safely in Atyrau.

Exiting the Airport / Spending the Night at the Atyrau Transit Hotel (ATH)

The ATH, which is owned by TCO is about a quarter mile from the Atyrau Airport.  Once you leave the luggage area you walk through the waiting area – there is a TCO “Greeter” with a clipboard who will check your name off confirming you have arrived.  This person can direct you to where the TCO bus is that will take you to ATH.  Your first time in I suggest you take the bus so you get a sense of who the other TCO people are but you are welcome to walk if you prefer.  The ATH is across the street and at the end of the road on your left.

You will need to show your Chevron smart badge to enter ATH – if you take the bus it will stop and a guard will get on and scan the badges of all the passengers.  Make sure you have your badge in your carryon.  As you enter the ATH complex you see three buildings going from left to right: the far left building are offices, the middle building is the hotel including the Arrival Hall, and the right building is the canteen.  Go into the middle building, up to the desk, and they will assign you a room for the evening.  Depending upon how crowded the ATH is you will either get your own room or have to share a room.  All the rooms have two beds but if it is not too full you each will be assigned your own room.  Specifically ask to be placed in the C Block – this is typically where management is located an you normally do not need to share a room.

Check at the Arrival Hall desk when dinner is served; you can at least get a sandwich and some fruit before you go to bed.  There is not much to the ATH – it is where all the rotators stay, on their way in and out of Tengiz.  You will be getting in around 9 pm so recommend trying to get some sleep – you can check out the city of Atyrau on your way out at the end of your first rotation.  Before you go to bed you can request a guest office to get on a TCO computer and check either work or personal email; you might want to do this so you can send an email home letting you know you have arrived.  For those of us here on a permanent assignment we do our turnover with our back-to-back (b2) in these guest offices.  Since you have no b2b you can just go to bed (some of us stay up until 2 am getting our turnover completed). 

I understand you can use a telephone in the Arrival Hall to make a short call home letting them know you are safe (I have not done this, use email instead).  Check at the Arrival Hall desk.  If they ask for a charge code use the Designs Engineering cost center, 20115.  You may also need this number to get food in the ATH canteen.

You are 10 hours ahead of Pascagoula, and 12 hours ahead of El Segundo and Richmond.

Travel to Tengiz

The next morning you get up and go back to the Atyrau Airport for your flight to Tengiz.  When you check in at the Arrival Hall desk ask about the time of the flight the next morning (there should be a placard at the describes the Dash 8 flight departure) – they will tell you when you need to be in the Arrival hall and then you will take a bus back to the Airport.  I recommend meeting in the Arrival Hall, and not walking to the Airport, because in case the flight is delayed they will announce this in the Arrival Hall, not at the Airport.  You also need to drop off your luggage in the ATH Luggage Room near the Arrival Hall as you are not allowed carryon luggage on the flight to Tengiz like you can on the commercial flights.  All the luggage is taken by train/bus to Tengiz – it arrives late that afternoon.

You will take a TCO prop plane from Atyrau to Tengiz – it is called the “Dash 8” and it is a 35 seater commuter plane (The Tengizchevroil Visitor Arrival Guide refer to this plane as the DHC 8).  Just follow the crowd as you go back through the Airport, go into a waiting area, and then take the bus out to the Dash 8 jet.  The flight from Atyrau to Tengiz takes about 40 minutes.

You will arrive at the TCO airfield which is adjacent to the TCO Village (TCOV) where we have offices and some residences.  You walk out of the airfield and to a waiting bus which will take you to Crew Change Hall in Shanyrak Village (SV) for you to check in and get your residence room assignment.  We will have someone from Designs Engineering (DE) to greet you at the Airfield on your first trip in and make sure we get you situated.  The DE contact will make sure you get checked into your room and then take you over to TCOV to the DE offices. 

Depending upon timing you should be going to lunch about this time; your DE contact will make sure you don’t go hungry.  You should meet the DE Supervisor (Labeeb will be on-rotation for everyone’s first arrival except the last person), the DE Admin Assistants and the DE SGP/SGI Lead Engineer.  After you have said your hellos we will probably take you out to the North Contract Compound (NCC) where the 2012 SGP/SGI Turnaround team is located.  From this point on we will integrate you with the team; you will be safely here and no longer need this blog.

For your reference, TCOV used to also be the residence location for most of management / technical groups here in Tengiz but they were all moved to Shanyrak Village (SV) in 2007 where you will be staying.  TCOV is where the primary Designs Engineering offices are located (in TCOV Building B6).  It is approximately a 15 minute walk between SV and TCOV, though there are buses that run between the two on a routine basis. 

Once you get to the DE offices in TCOV, please remember to give your Passport (which has the RoK Visa inside) and your Migration card to the FE Admin Assistant.  They will scan this information and then forward to the TCO Visa Services group.  This supercedes the information in the Tengizchevroil Visitor Arrival Guide, Immigration, item 5 (indicates you should contact the TCO Visa Department the next day).

In the TCOV DE offices you can also access computers and telephones, allowing you to call home as needed.

What to Bring

  1. Chevron Smart Badge
  2. Passport, Visa Application, Letter of Invitation, Passport photos
  3. Emergency Contact List
  4. Clothing for a week (jeans and casual shirts are fine; bring t-shirts too to wear under your Nomex).
  5. Electronics including European adaptors
  6. Backpack
  7. Water bottle if you like (it will be blazing hot in August)
  8. Mosquito spray
  9. Sunglasses
  10. PPE including work boots (we will provide hard hat, H2S monitor, safety glasses, etc. but please bring your safety boots and Nomex) – suggest you pack and send this as checked baggage your first rotation in.
  11. Toiletries / Prescriptions
  12. Swim suit (if you like to swim for exercise)
  13. Workout clothes (if you like to workout)

 SV Tips

Your laundry is done for you – 3 times per week.  You leave it outside your residence room door in a net bag (provided) around 5 am, with a laundry list check off sheet describing contents.  Your laundry is cleaned and returned that day.  You do not need to bring any more than a week’s worth of clothing due to this service.  They will launder and press any shirts you leave outside the door with a hanger.  Your towels and bedding are changed once per week; if you want the towels laundered more frequently just put in your laundry bag.

Your room will be located in one of the SV Modules or Domes.  We all them Domes but in reality the Dome is in the center and each of the residence wings are spokes from the Dome.  These are two story residence wings, filled with either double or single rooms.  Each of the SV domes (there are 5, numbered sequentially) has a canteen where you get your breakfast and lunch.  Wouldn’t worry about this too much – the DE representative will take you to your dome, get you to your room and then give you a quick tour so you know your way around.

Each Dome has a small market for sundries (ranging from snacks to shampoo) in case your forgot something.  Each Dome also has a small gym for working, and some general areas where you can play pool and get an alcoholic beverage.  Regarding alcohol, I recommend against it as you will be working 12+ hours every day, probably thoughout the turnaround.  There is a strict TCO policy that you can not have any alcohol in your system when you begin your shift; if this occurs you will be sent back to the States immediately.