Commercial offshore diving

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One type of individual setup for commercial offshore diving

Commercial offshore diving, sometimes shortened to just offshore diving, is a branch of commercial diving, with divers working in support of the exploration and production sector of the oil and gas industry in places such as the Gulf of Mexico in the United States, the North Sea in the United Kingdom and Norway, and along the coast of Brazil. The work in this area of the industry includes maintenance of oil platforms and the building of underwater structures.

For many newly qualified divers, this is the entry point to the industry. The lack of experienced divers and the excess of qualified divers within the industry push down wages for divers beginning their careers.[citation needed] The low wages, relative inexperience of the workforce combined with difficult and dangerous operating conditions make offshore diving the most dangerous[citation needed] area of employment for professional divers. Workers often live and work on the platform or ship for several weeks at a time, working 12-hour shifts without any days off.[citation needed]

Equipment used for offshore diving tends to be surface supplied equipment but this varies[citation needed] according to the work and location. For instance, divers in the Gulf of Mexico may use wetsuits whilst North Sea divers need drysuits or even hot water suits because of the low temperature of the water.[1]

Saturation diving is standard practice at many of the deeper offshore sites, and allows more effective use of the diver's time while reducing the risk of decompression sickness.[1]


  • The first commercial offshore saturation dive was performed by Westinghouse in the Gulf of Mexico following Hurricane Betsy in March 1966.[2]
  • A casualty of commercial diving in North Sea oil exploration occurred as early as October 2, 1967[3]
  • Saturation diving at Ekofisk commenced in 1970.[4]
  • Five divers die in the 1983 Byford Dolphin accident.[5]

North Sea[edit]

A 7 December 2013 Verdens Gang editorial said that "According to the divers' own numbers, 66 divers died while on duty during the pioneering age".

Norway's sector[edit]

A 2013 European Court of Human Rights verdict said that the [pioneer] divers were "in a situation risking their lives and health when they took on the dangerous job. The government should have taken [occupational] safety measures. But on the contrary. The tables that showed how fast the divers were to [come to the] surface after a dive, were held secret by the companies. Faster surfacing resulted in a cheaper dive, but also increased the risk. The government's control and follow-up was too poor."[6] (In Norway's sector of the North Sea, 17 divers died during a 20 year-period from 1967 — 11 individuals were British.[7] In 2013 Aftenposten said that "During the pioneering period, most of the [oil] companies related to (forholdt seg til) dive tables based on research by U.S. Navy. The dive tables were supposed to ensure that the divers avoided so called bends. The problem was that the U.S tables were formulated for divers during a transportation phase in a crisis situation. Not for shift work over several hours. The tables were also created for survival possibilities during an acute (akutt) evacuation—not necessarily concerning oneself with issues of long-term health. Authors Kristin Øye Gjerde and Helge Ryggvik indicate that several international companies often competed in pressing (å presse) the tables further. Status was acquired by beating the records. Effectivity (effektivitet) put [more] money in the till."[8])

Aftenposten also claimed that "The first trade union came in 1977";[9] Teknisk Ukeblad says that divers first joined the trade union in 1978.[5]

On 1 July 1978 a set of "temporary rules" [for diving] were instituted—12 years after diving had started and 11 years after the first serious[9] accident.

Furthermore "According to the Lossius Commission (a fact-finding commission ordered by the Cabinet in 2000) around 3 of 4 divers had accidents or diving related illnesses. Over half had bends, and 83% encountered life-endangering situations while diving."[9]

Norway's government has claimed responsibility for pioneering divers on a moral and political foundation, without taking a judicial responsibility for medical injuries.[9]

80 applicants, out of 340, have been denied governmental compensation for pioneering divers.[9]

In 2013 in the European Court of Human Rights three commercial divers won their case against Norway. (In 2012 European Court of Human Rights stated it will try the case of three commercial divers that lost their case in Norway's supreme court in 2010.[10][11] The court had not concluded[12] in the case, as of August 2013.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Beyerstein G. (2006). "Commercial Diving: Surface-Mixed Gas, Sur-D-O2, Bell Bounce, Saturation.". In: Lang, MA and Smith, NE (eds.). Proceedings of Advanced Scientific Diving Workshop: February 23–24, 2006 (Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC). Retrieved 2011-09-08. 
  2. ^ O'Neill, WJ (2010). "Where it began: The first commercial offshore saturation dive.". Offshore. Retrieved 2011-09-08. 
  3. ^ "Dødsulykker under dykking i Nordsjøen 1965–1990". Retrieved 2011-09-08. 
  4. ^ Maugesten, Hanne Marie (2013-08-09). "Pionéren - Vi kan takke Magn Muledal og hans kolleger for velferden vår, mener Aksel Hennie. Han spiller nordsjødykker i ny, norsk film.". Aftenposten A-magasinet (in Norwegian). p. 12. 
  5. ^ a b Peder Qvale; Lars Taraldsen. "Oljerikdommens dystre bakside". Teknisk Ukeblad. 
  6. ^ Editorial board (2013-12-07). "Endelig oppreisning for Nordsjø-dykkerne". Verdens Gang. 
  7. ^ Gray, Sadie. The Times (London) |url= missing title (help). 
  8. ^ Maugesten, Hanne Marie (2013-08-09). "Pionéren - Vi kan takke Magn Muledal og hans kolleger for velferden vår, mener Aksel Hennie. Han spiller nordsjødykker i ny, norsk film.". Aftenposten A-magasinet (in Norwegian). pp. 14, 16. "I pionértiden forholdt de fleste selskapene seg til dykketabeller basert på forskning fra den amerikanske marinen. Dykketabellene skulle sikre at dykkerne ungikk dykkersyke, såkalt bends, eller trykkfallssyke. Problemet var bare at de amerikanske tabellene var utarbeidet med tanke på dykkingen som en transportetappe i en krisesituasjon. Ikke for skiftarbeid over flere timer. De var også utarbeidet med tanke på hva som var mulig å overleve i en akutt evakueringssituasjon, ikke nødvendigvis med tanke på hva som var helseskadelig på sikt. Forfatterne Kristin Øye Gjerde og Helge Ryggvik peker på at flere internasjonale selskaper ofte konkurrerte om å presse tabellene ytterligere. Og det ga status å slå rekordene. Effectivity ga penger i kassen." 
  9. ^ a b c d e Maugesten, Hanne Marie (2013-08-09). "Pionéren - Vi kan takke Magn Muledal og hans kolleger for velferden vår, mener Aksel Hennie. Han spiller nordsjødykker i ny, norsk film.". Aftenposten A-magasinet (in Norwegian). p. 14. "Den første fagforeningen kom i 1977." 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ En oljenasjons skitne fødsel [An oil nation's filthy birth]

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