How to Become a Commercial Diver

How to Become a Commercial Diver

This is my experience with a commercial dive school. Having decided to embark on a career as a commercial diver my next move was to choose a school to become a commercial diver.

You can also read about how I decided to become a commercial diver.

Pre-course Apprehension

In my country in Scotland, there were two dive centers offering certification courses for commercial diving. I guess the start of this new passion was not lucky enough as one of the dive centers did not have a course during that time. And the other one let me down by canceling just a day before I was supposed to start.

Flickr (Official U.S. Navy Page)

But things changed and I spoke to some of my fellow commercial divers in Scotland. They shared their experience of taking the course in Durban, South Africa and highly recommended to take the course with the Professional Diving Center (PDC). As the training usually takes three months, I was apprehensive at first of going there. But as soon as I was able to talk with the guys from PDC, I decided to make a go for it.

I was doubtful when I first arrive at the PDC facilities. The place was empty as the guys were out for a training dive with only the secretary left at the Office. As I looked around watching the 6-bunk accommodation room inside a metal container, an open shower, a kitchen, a large classroom, and the yard, I started to wonder if this was a good idea. My doubts were relieved only after I saw the guys coming back from dive training. They all welcomed me, made me comfortable while I excitedly watched their gear being unloaded.

Embarking on a Journey as a commercial diver

Paul Yates

After a week of attending lectures and studying my dive manual, my instructor, Grant Jamieson, exposed me to dive training in a tank. I started with a briefing and controlling the valves of the dive helmet. Once underwater, I started learning to switch from surface air supply to my 12-liter bail-out tank connected to the helmet. This is a relatively important skill as part of the emergency procedures when the surface supply encounters some problems. After training in tanks, I started to explore the designated dock area where I was able to descend up to 18 meters (60 feet).

A series of hands-on training led me to develop the skills of welding both on land and underwater. I have done Ultra-Thermic burning (BROCO) with temperatures reaching 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, burning through anything on its way and Air-Jetting using a High-Pressure Jetgun. I also learned Air-lifting in knee-depth mud using a sub-sea suction tube.

Malcolm McMullen

One of the crucial parts of the training dives is the deep dive where some of my classmates failed. You can go as deep as 50 meters (165 feet) in an old slate quarry that has been flooded. We were required to do 4 deep dives. You will usually follow a rope that will trail around and leads you back to the surface. I can describe this dive as dark and muddy with almost 2 feet (0.6 meters) of silt.

Some experience with decompression sickness will inevitably happen when you do commercial diving. So it is paramount for you to learn how to competently use a Decompression Chamber. I admit that there were times when I found it tedious, but I also discovered ways to keep my mind distracted.

My Commercial Diving training ended up with me having 200 minutes of logged dive time. I successfully passed the exams and now am a certified commercial diver. It was hard leaving the PDC premises and my friends, going home with a heavy heart. Fortunately, I arrived back home two weeks before Christmas just in time to spend the holidays with my family and relax.

Downtime and the off-season for commercial diving

Semen Lixodeev

During training, we found it hard that there were no recreational activities in the evenings. We built a patio to play snooker and pool, watched TV or just chatted with each other, telling stories. This was a relatively good way to help us relax and unwind after long days.

You are also trained to do all sorts of non-diving tasks. For example, if weather conditions prevent diving, you can do equipment maintenance, repairs or paint some metal bars to pass the time and ensure a high state of preparedness.

Our instructor also told us that you can go long periods without work. So having other trades or hobbies are very useful to keep you sane. Our instructor shared with us that he drives a freight truck when dive work is scarce.

Do you dream of a career in commercial diving?

It’s by no means not for everyone, but at some point, most divers consider the life of a commercial diver. If you have any questions about the life or training of a commercial diver, leave it in the comment below, and we’ll do our best to answer them.

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