What is Saturation Diving? An International SAT Diver Explains

What is Saturation Diving? An International SAT Diver Explains

Saturation diving is one of the most popular subjects for commercial divers for divers and dive enthusiasts. As one of the most advanced forms of commercial diving, it requires only the most experienced and confident professionals. Also known as SAT diving, this career demands specialized training, as a diver can spend days under the pressure of the ocean, diving underwater, at each job. Besides the basics, the everyday ins-and-outs of the job are not well understood. Professional commercial divers seeking to learn more about this advanced career need the details before choosing this path. Jadon Anderson, an experienced international SAT diver, answered some of the most frequently asked questions regarding this profession.

Saturation Diving: A Quick Definition

Saturation diving was invented to combat the wasted time and resources required for commercial divers to return to normal pressure after a dive. SAT divers live for up 28 days in a small topside chamber that is pressurized to the same level as the underwater construction environment, so divers do not have to decompress after each shift. They are lowered to the depth using a diving bell.

Similar to offshore diving, saturation diving operates on a 24/7 cycle. Typically, two to three divers are housed in the SAT chamber. They rotate between shifts of six hours each. On their underwater excursions, based on the requirements of the job, they may connect laid pipelines together, using flanges, bolting them up. This work is known as inspection, maintenance and repair (IMR). In other words, a diver may inspect structures, undertake maintenance, and once in a while, get to do a little ocean floor exploring.

FAQ#1: In your own words and experience, can you describe what saturation diving is used for?

I’d say there are two important points to cover when discussing the uses of saturation diving. First, SAT diving can be used in shallow or deep waters. In addition, given the correct vessels, such as twin man bells, it can provide continuous diving for 24 hours without any delays or stops. This can save many resources while completing the job. Secondly, it is a diving technique that allows divers to reduce the risk of decompression sickness. This is more commonly known as  “the bends”. Divers who work at great depths for long periods of time can experience the bends, however, once a diver is saturated, decompression time does not increase with further exposure.  

FAQ#2: Can you walk us through a typical day of a saturation diver on the job?

You will start your day in the chamber sleeping. Topside would then wake you up for “hours notice.” This gives you one hour to wake up and get ready for your dive. In that hour, you eat breakfast, go to the bathroom, and get dive gear ready to go. In my experience, that hours notice comes quickly and you need to be prepared.

At the end of the hour, you will transfer to the Bell and lock off. The bell then separates and takes you to the depth of your job in the water. Working in a three-man team, the diver will lock out first and Diver Two locks out second. The bellman stays in the bell and monitors the gas and acts as the rescuer if any issues come up. An average dive lasts for six hours maximum. At the end of the six-hour lockout, both divers return to the bell and then the bell gets recovered to the system. Then, the next set of divers locks off and continues the job.

It’s important to note that at a typical SAT diving job, there are three to four teams of two to three divers each. These teams are housed in multiple chambers underwater. Each team dives for about seven and a half hours. At the end of your dive, you give a hand over to the next set of divers. Once the second team dives, you shower, clean up, have a healthy dinner, and rest. Rest is so important here because you will be going back in after another 12-14 hours.

FAQ#3: I’m an experienced commercial diver. What should I look for when it comes to SAT diving training programs?

Well, saturation diving programs are rare. Truthfully, there are only two or three schools in the world that offer the necessary specialized training.  So, if you want to pursue saturation diving, you should consider the location that suits you. However, it’s also very important to look at the school’s staff and the required course work. The staff should have years of experience in saturation diving and the course work should be hands-on and comprehensive. It also helps to attend a saturation diving program that can help you make good connections in the industry. This makes it easier to find saturation diving work after your advanced training is complete. 

FAQ#4: In your experience, what should a diver know before pursuing a SAT diving career?

One of the most important things to know before pursuing saturation diving is the challenging nature of the work. Danger is always present when saturation diving. There are so many working variables that the diver needs to be aware of. TUP (transfer under pressure) and no visibility in the water can be very dangerous as well as the equipment involved in the jobs, such as overhead crane loads sent down to you. 

If you do pursue SAT diving, I believe that the most important thing is to have experience in offshore work. One of my colleagues gave me very important advice. He said, “You have to understand what’s happening on deck before you can understand what’s going on in the water.”

DIT & Saturation Diving: A Top Global Program

Divers Institute of Technology offers one of the only saturation diving programs in the country. With experienced staff and a comprehensive curriculum, divers leave our program with a full range of knowledge, prepared to take on all the demands of the work. Jadon Anderson, interviewed above, is a staff member and instructor at DIT and is dedicated to providing top-notch training for his students. To learn more about saturation diving, Divers Institute, and the available programs, contact us today! Otherwise, you can fill out an application to get started!

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