Bulgarian Alexander Paunov completed his 9-week Standard Career Package training at The Underwater Centre last year and tells us how his training kick-started his new career as a commercial diver.
“The Underwater Centre helped prepare me for the reality of work as a diver”
Inspired by his brother who works in the subsea industry, Alexander decided to make a big career change from his previous job as a production planning expert in a metallurgical company. He chose our Standard Career Package to equip him with the vital skills and experience on subsea tools that he’d need as a commercial diver..
Training at The Underwater Centre
As he says, “As well as the training and certificates that I needed to be able to start work as a commercial diver, the extra time spent on skills and equipment training at The Underwater Centre helped prepare me for the reality of work as a commercial diver.”
Find out more about Commercial Diving Training in Fort William here
Alexander also believes that the facilities and the wide range of subsea operations and structures that you train on at The Underwater Centre helped get him ready for real industry conditions. “Having recently been to another school, I am happy that I chose to do my training in Fort William as I believe the facilities are better at The Underwater Centre.”
“I’ll definitely be returning to Fort William for my next advanced qualification.”
Working in the commercial diving industry
Just two months after completing his course, Alexander began working and earning as a commercial diver with a ROV and Diving Services company in Norway. He started out in his first industry job at a day rate of 4000 NOK, roughly equivalent to £365 per day,and is looking forward to advancing in his career.
“I’d recommend The Underwater Centre for anyone thinking about training as a diver. I’ve already told lots of people in online diving forums about my great training near the home of the Loch Ness Monster! I’ll definitely be returning to Fort William for my next advanced qualification.”
We look forward to helping you in your career again soon, Alexander!
Read more about former students and our Commercial diving courses. Alternatively, for more information, contact our Student Advisors on +44 1397 703786 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Skills Development Scotland has awarded The Underwater Centre in Fort William funding to help ensure that Scotland is ready to supply the qualified workforce that the subsea industry will need in the future. The funding is available for advanced commercial diver courses, such as HSE Closed Bell, as well as ROV pilot technician training. Individual students and companies based in Scotland are eligible.
The subsea industry is a key part of the Scottish economy. The Scottish Government believes it is vital to support subsea training now so that the country’s workforce is ready to respond to positive market conditions when the oil price begins to recover, as well as being prepared for opportunities in decommissioning and the offshore renewables sector. Therefore Skills Development Scotland has made it easier for Scottish workers to access high quality, industry-accredited subsea training.
50% funding available from June 2017
Starting in June 2017, Scottish residents* will be able to train in key courses at The Underwater Centre for 50% of the usual cost. The other half of the fees will be paid by Skills Development Scotland.
With industry needs in mind, the financial support is targeted towards the specific areas where there are likely to be shortages. The support is not seeking to bring new people into the offshore industry but is aiming to increase the capability of the people already in the sector.
Courses eligible for funding
Eligible courses are currently:
- HSE Closed Bell
- Premium ROV
- ROV Pilot Technician
- ROV Operations
- Fibre Optics & ODTR
- TITAN 4 Manipulator
Who is eligible for funding?
This financial support is available to both individuals and companies based in Scotland* who wish to train their staff. Candidates are urged to apply as soon as possible. The total value of the funding is limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
*A resident is someone who has been resident in Scotland for at least the last 12 months.
For more information, or to find out if you are eligible, please contact our Student Advisors on email@example.com or call +44 (0) 1397 703786.
1. You cannot stand being behind a desk all day.
Commercial Diving is all about implementing the fundamentals of your education everyday on the jobsite. After receiving your certification from an accredited commercial diving program, your skills and training will immediately be put to the test.
A typical commercial diving job can take you anywhere from 50 feet offshore to hundreds of meters in the deep blue sea.
Mental toughness and physical fitness will be required in these challenging and unforgiving conditions. From underwater welding and construction to nuclear diving, you can kiss a regular eight hour day goodbye and jump into the deep end, literally.
2. You are always looking for the next adventure.
You like trying new things and seeing what the world has to offer. Jobs in the commercial diving sector can give you just that.
This career can take you inside of a nuclear reactor or to an oil rig in the Atlantic Ocean. Whatever path you choose, no two work days will ever be the same.
3. You like to travel.
You enjoy the water, and know that there are too many things to be seen and done to just stay in one place your whole life. With a certification from an accredited commercial diving program, a commercial diving career can provide you with the opportunity to get paid while traveling and exploring the world.
4. You are just insanely bored out of your mind.
You are tired of performing the same monotonous tasks day in and day out. You know there is more to life and you are sick of being stuck in a box. You’re a hands-on person and want to solve problems that provide instant gratification.
You find more joy in fixing the kitchen sink or car than running a report. You need to tap into your technical & mechanical skills rather than your technological skills. Commercial diving is all about problem solving, quick-thinking and versatility.
You need to be quick on your feet, and calm while under pressure (no pun intended).
A commercial diving career takes will take you out of your comfort zone and into the deep sea – where it’s all about knowledge, safety and efficiency.
5. You don’t mind getting a little dirty.
HAZMAT commercial divers are placed into some sticky situations; such as fixing sewer lines or removing hazardous materials from water sources. Offshore commercial divers on the other hand complete hours of underwater welding and underwater construction on a given day.
Commercial diving isn’t for the weak-hearted or those with sensitive stomachs. The work is tough, but the rewards are great; including the pay earned, skills learned and the relationships made throughout your career.
SAT diving might be a lucrative profession, but it does come with a downside — long stretches away from home and dangerous work conditions.
Fredoon Kapadia has been a commercial diver for the last nine years. He has just returned from a two-month assignment in Saudi Arabia and is enjoying being on land.
He doesn’t make any bones about telling you that he makes good money, but that was not always the case.
“Money wasn’t very good in the initial years but today I make in two days what some of my friends would in a month,” he tells you.
“All I knew was that the money was good eventually!”
Yet when he first started his offshore career, he was as clueless as an average teenager about what he wanted to do. “All I knew was that the money was good eventually!” he says.
Nearly a decade later though, his love for tools and equipment combined with his science education and an intense passion for his job have held him in good stead.
As a SAT (short for ‘Saturation’) diver, Kapadia works for a company that bids for contracts from oil companies for cleaning, maintaining, inspecting and repairing underwater pipelines and platforms and structures.
Subsea construction – saturation divers
“Basically we are sub-sea construction labourers, nothing more,” he says matter-of-factly. But working anywhere between 100 to 500 feet under water means that Kapadia puts his life on the line just so that the structures under water are shipshape.
Add to that the loneliness in the underwater chamber that houses anywhere between four and six divers and little else. He tells you that while you are technically connected with the rest of the world — companies often provide you with Internet facilities and you can buy phone cards — you do crave to be back with your loved ones.
Kapadia says that everyone is dying to get back. “Some tell you that this will be their last job but they are back a month or two later! The job itself can be quite mechanical but the money is great. I’ve known people as old as 60 who are still working. Most of them are in it because it pays well. Very few are in it for the love of the job. We call those people crazy!” he laughs.
Fredoon Kapadia talks about the job of a SAT diver and why it might not be for everyone…
What is SAT diving and how did you come to hear about it?
I was never into academics and would scrape past in exams, but I was good with tools and mechanical equipment. I could take my motorbike apart and put it back together myself.
Then I heard about a neighbour who worked off shore and had made enough money to eke out a more than comfortable existence. Curious to find out more about his job, I visited him. The neighbour was a commercial diver.
Fascinated by it, I decided that was what I wanted to do. So after Class 12, I took up an air diving course at 19 and began working at 20.
SAT (short for Saturation) diving is a technique that allows divers to stay under water at great depths for hours and work there without getting decompression sickness.
What is decompression sickness?
A disorder, seen especially in deep-sea divers, caused by the formation of nitrogen bubbles in the blood and tissues following a sudden drop in the surrounding pressure, as when ascending rapidly from a dive, and characterised by severe pain in the joints and chest, skin irritation, cramps and even paralysis.
What does a SAT diver do?
If you are a SAT diver your employer will in all probability be an oil company and you will be doing jobs like installation of offshore platforms, laying pipelines, exploring, drilling and underwater welding.
A SAT diver is also responsible for cleaning, maintaining, inspecting and repairing underwater pipelines and platforms and structures. Basically you are sub-sea construction labourer.
What are the qualifications you need to become a SAT diver?
You simply need to be an IMCA-recognised (International Marine Contractors Association) commercial diver. You needn’t be a graduate or have any specific education degree, although a background in science does come handy.
What you do need though is a course in air diving and then a course in SAT diving. Each of these courses lasts for a few weeks and cost around Rs 8 lakh (Rs 800,000). Now, I believe, it has gone up by another Rs 4 lakh (Rs 400,000).
An air diver basically does any work that is not deeper than 50 metres under water. More often than not, air divers are afloat when they work unlike SAT divers who have the liberty to walk on the seabed.
On the flipside, the job of an air diver does not last for very long but that of a SAT diver can go on for hours.
I completed my air diving course from The Underwater Centre in Fort William in Scotland, worked as an air diver for four years before going in for a course in SAT diving and becoming a SAT diver.
During my time, it was the only school offering an IMCA-recognised course. Now there are a few more that have come up.
There are a number of schools that provide commercial diving but they must be IMCA-recognised if you want to work with the bigger companies.
What kind of pay can you expect?
When you start off as an air diver you earn anywhere between $100 to $300 (about Rs 4,600 to Rs 14,000) a day.
You earn between $300 and $600 (about Rs 14,000 to Rs 28,000) per day as a SAT diver. Over and above that you make $20 to $40 (Rs 900 to Rs 1,800) per hour for the time you are in the chamber itself.
You work in teams of two and tend to work anywhere between 8 and 12 hours each day without a day off. Part of the day you spend in water and the other part in the diver’s bell monitoring your partner who gets into the water after your part of the job is done.
What are the risks involved?
A SAT diver is usually about 100 to 500 feet under the sea — often walking on the seabed. You are working under or on the oil rigs. That is a lethal combination you are looking at. Pretty much anything can go wrong here.
It is a high-risk job. That’s why they pay you so much.
Can women apply?
Yes. There have been women SAT divers but not many stay for long. The work is purely physical and there is absolutely no privacy. Not many can handle it.
There are cameras everywhere including in the bathroom — simply because an emergency can strike anywhere, anytime. What if you just faint in the bathroom?
What are the other downsides to this job?
You have to stay away from your family for months on end.
When working as a SAT diver you may spend up to 28 days in a chamber that is possibly as large as an Indian Railways coupe.
Besides the five to six people who are with you, you have no contact with anyone.
It’s like being given whatever you want — food, Internet, entertainment — but being confined to your bathroom for those 28 days.
The challenge about being a SAT diver is not so much the job itself but surviving that isolation day after day.
Early on I was offshore for almost five months — 143 days to be precise — but it is not something I would do now. I was young then and wanted to do it at least once.
But now I look forward to coming back home to my fiance and my parents. Usually I take up jobs that don’t require me to be away from home for more than two months at a time. But even those few weeks can be excruciatingly long.
You are living in a chamber that is not larger than maybe 100 sq feet with absolutely no privacy and at times going weeks on end without so much seeing a glimpse of the sun.
Your day involves working in the water for about four hours then replacing your partner in the diving bell and ensuring he is fine.
You go to bed, wake up and start all over again.
What is the upside?
Well, the money is great!
Also if you are out of the country for six months in a year, your income in India isn’t taxed. You get to see some really great sea life and make some really good friends from all over the world.
What keeps you going in the job?
You should be passionate about what you do. It might just be fixing nuts and bolts but it is one very important job.
It needs to be precise and you need to be focussed on what you do otherwise things can get out of hand.
One small mistake on your part can cost someone’s life.
I’ve always been interested in the workings of a machine. I guess that keeps me going.
Money shouldn’t be the only driving force; it can’t be actually, definitely not when it is such a high-risk profession.
This is a small industry and a small mistake can ruin your reputation.
Should you be afraid of sharks?
No! In fact there is not a single recorded incident in the history of a SAT diver being attacked by a shark. Most of these creatures are docile and uninterested in what you are doing.
Except snakes, who are very curious by nature and often look at you directly in the face because the light on your head attracts them.
Have you ever been in a life-threatening situation?
It happened at Mumbai High (the offshore oilfield off Mumbai) during the monsoon. I was on the deck and a rough wave almost got me killed.
I had to be airlifted and was in bed for two weeks. Thankfully it was just a muscle pull.
Since then I’ve stopped taking assignments at Mumbai High during the monsoon, when the sea is rough.
What are the five pre-requisites one needs to be in this job?
1. You need to be very fit. This is pure labour and if you aren’t physically fit you better not be here.
2. Be ready to get your hands dirty — oil and grime is all part of the job. This is a blue-collar profession in a certain sense.
3. You must have common sense. Scientific formulae won’t keep you alive — it’s your head on your shoulders that will.
4. You must know swimming — I think that’s a given.
5. Most importantly you must have mental stamina. You are in a place that is uninhabitable to humans and are restricted to a small room where there is no privacy or sense of personal space.
Only your mental strength can keep you going.
What would you advise young people wanting to take up this job?
Talk to someone who has been in this profession. Understand what it entails and find out if there is a job opening.
During the recession some of my juniors were sitting idle with no jobs. When your course fees are as high as Rs 12 lakh (Rs 1.2 million), it can mean a lot of stress.
On the job, you must have the drive to go the extra mile. You will always have people who will take up from where you left off, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t achieve the goal set for you.
Share a laugh on the job.
Take it easy.
Make friends — you will be with them for at least two months.
Take your job seriously and don’t let money be the driving force.
There is no scope for error. You might have had ten glory dives and a bad one.
You will always be remembered for that bad job.
You are only as good as your last dive.
To find out more about training as a saturation diver click here for HSE Closed Bell in the UK or here for ADAS Closed Bell in Australia.
Further to our recent blog post about the changes that the Australian Diving Accreditation Scheme (ADAS) planned to make to commercial air diver training, the inaugural pilot course of this new structure has now been completed. As a result we’ve received feedback from ADAS on this first course which means our commercial air diver training will be retaining its current structure. You can read the full ADAS statement here.
ADAS Review of Commercial Diver Training
As part of the review process, ADAS involved a number of industry stakeholders in these proposed course changes, which included removal of the 4-week ADAS Part 1 Occupational SCUBA course, and the creation of a new, 8-week Part 2 SSBA to 30m course (previously 4-weeks).
With input from other Australian diver training establishments and international organisations, and further to the delivery of the first course, it is now felt that more experience of SCUBA diving methods is necessary for a diver as he/she begins his/her career.
Premium Package includes SCUBA and Surface Supplied
As a result of this input and the feedback process, ADAS has decided to continue the ADAS Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 courses as previously offered. Therefore, our Premium Commercial Diver Training Package will remain as is currently offered. For more information on what is included in this commercial diving course visit our website here.
If you have any questions about the commercial air diver training that we offer, please contact our Student Advisors on +61 3 6383 4844 or email firstname.lastname@example.org