Commercial divers’ careers take them a lot of places: Lakes, bridges, tunnels, ships, oil rigs, water towers…even nuclear power plants.
Though much of the offshore industry operates out of the Gulf of Mexico, other divers venture further into foreign countries. This profession is split between inland and offshore work.
Welcome to the international commercial diving field.
It’s a specialized area – one that few divers have a chance to take part in. Those that do jump in are rewarded through professional experience.
International Versus National Underwater Construction
Inland diving projects and training are usually handled by local nationals, primarily due to varying diving requirements among countries. Most of the international maritime projects take place offshore.
But there’s several other key differences between local and overseas work; often, international projects require more diving experience. The kind that you can only earn after several years in the industry.
“Normally, I recommend that young divers gain some experience in the domestic industry prior to going international,” John Paul Johnson, Divers Institute of Technology’s (DIT) Executive Director, says.
The Domestic and international arenas each have their own set of requirements and expectations when it comes to work experience. John Paul explains more in detail:
“Domestically, when you are hired you are an employee of the company and they look after you. The management there looks at it as their responsibility to provide you with the training necessary to be successful. Internationally, you are normally a contractor and as such expected to know your job. As one saturation diver explained to me – the diving supervisors take the view that their job is to get the project done, not babysit inexperienced divers.”
Language & Culture Adaptation
Besides the contract side of it, divers will speak to other workers who have different cultures, languages and ethnicities.
Luckily, English is the international business language, so you probably won’t be required to learn part of another language. Still, studying basic phrases and learning about the history of the country you’re visiting will help you gain respect of the national workers.
In addition, commercial diving is a language all its own. Though you may have specific lingo you use in the US, it’s important that you learn from other divers to know the technical terms for the country you’re working in.
Preparing for Global Work: Professional Advice
So how do you go from inland to international diver?
The first step involves training at a commercial diving school like DIT. Their program prepares you for real-world experience, whether local or offshore. After you graduate, the diving field is wide open. We asked our graduates and John Paul to give their thoughts on preparation.
Keep an open mind and attitude; get ready to learn a new culture and language. It’s a life changing career – big change. Have some money saved up so you are able to survive until your first paycheck. Most of all, be eager to learn new stuff and enjoy it while you are doing what you love!
The four “P’s”: Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
Improvise; troubleshoot; remember that it’s a large scale, dynamic, foreign culture, and it can expand your experience exponentially.
Keep your certifications current; problems can come mid-project if your certification expires and you have to go home to spend time and money renewing it.
Research where you’re going, the contractors you’re working with and the laws in the countries that you may be passing through.
I recommend a few certifications for your professional development:
● Sea Survival / Helicopter escape / Fire Fighting course (OPITO/HEUIT)
● Travel by Boat and Transfer by Boat
● IMCA Dive Medical
Divers need to have a solid background in their profession and be ready to hit the deck running. Respect the cultural differences of the members of their team and the crew aboard the vessel that you’ll be working with.
Written by Matt Smith, Creator of Water Welders.
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