THE EVOLUTION OF COMMERCIAL DIVING AND ITS TRAINING
Earth is a water planet. Five oceans surround seven continents dotted with thousands of lakes and rivers. People have swum and dove in the waters of the world for thousands of years both for pleasure and commerce.
The commercial pursuits and opportunities for diving below the water’s surface have changed over the centuries from shallow water, breath-hold diving for pearls and sponges to our present day demands for deep water diving that require the use of large compressors to supply air and mixed gases to commercial divers hundreds of feet below the surface.
Modern day commercial divers are routinely called upon to perform construction, inspection, repairs, and salvage on a variety of structures including bridges, dams, harbors, ports, water towers, nuclear plants, and oil platforms. They perform these functions in both fresh and salt water. With the use of specialized equipment, commercial divers can also access contaminated environments such as water treatment or sewage facilities, as well as chemical and oil tankers, or even nuclear reactor.
The work of a commercial diver is very physical but can also be very exciting. It requires extensive training and knowledge to safely descend into deep and often dangerous conditions to perform challenging tasks. The Ocean Corporation, located in Houston, Texas has provided the specialized training necessary to become a commercial diver for almost 50 years.
Job and skill requirements have changed significantly since The Ocean Corp first began training men and women for oil field commercial diving in 1969. During the first decade of offshore oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), the discoveries made revealed vast reserves of crude oil and gas below the sea floor on the continental shelf. The continental shelf extends out into the GOM approximately 100 miles from the Texas coastline, and water depths on the shelf are relatively shallow, -200 ft or shallower. Commercial divers working in the GOM during the 1970’s constructed the very first platforms for oil production. They rarely dove deeper than 200 feet so, most dives were air dives. Commercial diver training at Ocean Corp during that first decade was designed to meet the demands required of the new offshore oil and gas industry and primarily focused on air diving and underwater welding/burning.
Offshore oil production increased from the late 1970’s to the 80’s. As it did, platforms grew more substantial, and they were being placed in deeper waters. As such, demand for trained commercial divers also increased during this period, and so did the level of skill required to work on the deepwater projects. Recognizing the complexities of deepwater work, The Ocean Corp incorporated mixed gas and bell diving into their training program. Increased depths and bottom times require the use of helium/oxygen breathing gas and diving bells for safe diver transportation from the ship to dive site then back from dive site to deco chambers.
Offshore Safety and Survival, rigging and Nondestructive Testing (NDT) were also added to the program shortly after the introduction of diving bells and mixed gas.
Today, many people consider commercial divers to be some of the most skilled and highly rewarded craftsmen in the world. Since 1969, many commercial divers have been able to attribute their success to the training and job placement assistance they received from The Ocean Corporation.
Students who are currently enrolled in Ocean Corp’s Ultimate Diver Training (UDT) are taught to a variety of different international standards including; SCUBA diving to NAUI Master Diver, air diving, mixed gas and saturation diving, underwater welding, underwater NDT, remotely operated vehicles, decompression chambers, rigging, Offshore Safety and Survival, and they receive a HAZWOPER certification for diving in contaminated environments.
There are almost as many reasons people become commercial divers as there are divers. When surveyed, the top three reasons given by Ocean Corp students are the challenge, love to dive and travel opportunities.
As long as we live on a planet where three-quarters of the surface is water, there will always be a demand for qualified, well-trained individuals to dive in it.
September 20, 2018 Bryant Price