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Reality of saturation diving - The Underwater Centre Blog

Reality of saturation diving

We recently had the following question put to us, ‘Hi, I have looking at saturation diving and I was just wondering if you could tell me what the average retirement age of one is and what the long terms effects are?’

Steve Grindrod gives us the low down:

Retirement age of commercial divers

Saturation diving system at Fort William‘There is no retirement age, average or otherwise, you can continue to dive on air or saturation as long as you have a commercial diving medical to cover the type of diving you intend to do.

‘Any age restrictions there are will be those presented by hiring companies, i.e. diving contractors and/or oil companies and, to my knowledge, there are none. There was a time when some companies in the Middle East (Qatar was one I know of) put an age limit of 60 on all offshore workers but I don’t know if that is still the case. Various companies have tried to impose age restrictions, supposedly for safety reasons following a spate of heart attacks one year but it didn’t work because they lost so much experience when they tried it.

Saturation diving is easier on the body than air diving

‘In general, saturation diving is easier on the body than air diving and the known long term and short term effects of air diving are probably worse than with saturation diving.  (See this blog post for a true picture of the effects of air diving.)  Speaking personally I always enjoyed air diving more than saturation diving but I enjoyed the money saturation diving gave me.

‘The actual work is little different, air work tends to be more mid-water, hence it’s more physically demanding, while saturation is often on the seabed, to generalise.  Both have their pluses and minuses.  Saturation work can be all about the money, although being able to really get stuck into a job because of the much longer in-water times can be a plus as well. With air diving it’s all a bit of a rush by comparison, due to decompression commitments, and that is where the wear and tear on the mind and body come in. You quite often get to do just a bit of a job rather than the whole thing or at least a big piece of it. Saturation diving by comparison is quite laid-back; you can’t rush things at 200+ metres so everything is much more planned and deliberate.

Pros and cons of saturation diving

Inside the saturation diving bell (closed bell)‘There is a big mental difference though, in general you as an individual are under much more pressure to do things right because the costs involved in getting you to the work-site are considerable and any mistakes are incredibly expensive to put right.  Just risking putting a new guy in saturation for the first time is a huge gamble on the part of the diving contractor. Good air divers don’t automatically make good saturation divers though they are a better risk.

‘Also, being total reliant upon other people for just about everything wears you down. Imagine having to ask someone to flush the toilet for you every time you went to the bathroom at home for instance or having to ask someone whenever you wanted a cup of tea or coffee. Amusing or minor annoyances perhaps but it’s surprising what starts to get to you after a while. That funny little habit your bell partner has which was quite amusing on the surface can lead to murder being threatened when you’re cooped up with him 24/28+!

‘All that said, most people will probably have had enough by the time they get to 55-60 anyway but it would depend when they started and on their financial commitments. You do get used to the big pay cheques and they are difficult to give up. In my experience wives and families adapt very well to the higher wages when you start saturation work but much less well when you want to give it up. As do the divers themselves of course, those expensive toys are hard to give up!’

Are you thinking of getting into saturation diver? To find out more about any of our diver training courses contact our Student Advisors; give them a call on +44 1397 703786 or email fortwilliam@theunderwatercentre.com

Find out more about HSE Closed Bell Training