Commercial Diving – History

Ever since the fledgling salvage operations of men in barrels (16th Century) there have been divers selling their services commercially. By the 19th Century commercial salvage teams were firmly established in Western Europe and the USA. The post WW2 years saw an increase in the fuel resource requirements for industrialised and newly industrialised countries. Questing survey ships sent forth discovered vast supplies of natural gas and crude oil in the seas and oceans. By the late 1960s to 1970s most of these areas had drilling platforms and gas piplines running to the mainland. With the rise of the offshore platform came with it a great demand for dedicated teams of commercial divers to maintain and tend to the underwater machinery and platform supports etc.

Through the 1970s and 1980s the commercial divers thrived on the rigs and many consider this to be the ‘Golden Age’ of Commercial Diving with even rookie divers earning small fortunes. Bank balances were high, oil and gas output was in abundance and you could almost hear the Boom Town Rats playin’ it for the boys and summing up the success.

Then the 1990s arrived and things began to slow down. The Oil and Gas extraction amounts no longer reached the capacities of the 1970s and 80s. Amid fossil fuel depletion and environmentalist concerns, offshore platforms no longer saw the output they had once reached. This along with the use of ROVs in lieu of divers has meant commercial diving is no longer the job it once was.

Commerical Diving – Present Day

The trend of using FPSOs (drilling ships) has meant that commercial divers tend to operate from massive Dive Support Vessels (DSVs) which roam the seas carrying out essential work underwater for platform and vessel alike.

The Dawn of the 21st Century has not seen the situation improve but has worsened slightly. Other countries outside of Europe and the USA are now training their own home-grown commercial divers causing the oversaturated market to be flooded further. This is also known to be creating a cheaper labour supply angering the more established and professional commercial divers. There is still a demand for commercial divers but the jobs are often few and far between and the more experienced/qualified diver is almost always chosen over the rookie. The Rise of the ROV is also impacting the employment of commerical divers. The effects are wide ranging but in Norway, a commerical diver cannot legally dive offshore without an ROV watching his every move! Helium is now more expensive than ever and the race is now on to discover an economically viable alternative before the Helium runs out!