Driving the highest safety standards in saturation diving to protect lives at sea

JFD’s head of sales Graeme Clark discusses the risks and challenges in the commercial diving industry and explains how new, advanced technologies will ensure the safest possible conditions for saturation divers.

It is well understood that commercial divers operate in some of the most dangerous and extreme conditions of any industry. Particularly in areas such as the North Sea, they will conduct complex operations whilst continually managing the risks associated with working at great depth, in very low temperatures and with severely limited visibility. Divers are highly capable experts in their field, and are trained to recognise the signs of danger that may pose a risk to their lives or to the lives of their fellow divers.

Whether through accident or circumstance, the risks associated with any incident when operating subsea are of the highest degree and cannot be overstated. Divers need absolute assurance that, should they need it, their emergency gas supply will allow them sufficient time to return to safety, even in some of the most challenging and hazardous environments. However, there are challenges here that the industry needs to take seriously, and overcome.

Currently, regulatory requirements dictating the minimum supply of emergency breathing gas vary depending on the stipulations made by differing governing bodies. This is usually dependant on the region in which the diver is operating. Furthermore, the supply of emergency gas is entirely dependent on the bailout method employed and the conditions under which the diver is working, with operating depth being the most influential factor. As a result of the economic challenges the energy industry is facing, many divers operate as contractors to a range of companies and in a variety of regions, rather than as a permanent employee of one company. As a result, they could find themselves working under a wide range of regulatory requirements with differing commitments to HSE, as well as under varying operating conditions.

Today’s standard provision of emergency breathing gas is limited to just a few minutes, particularly under the most challenging conditions. This poses a significant risk to divers; indeed there have been incidents that have risked fatalities due to an inadequate emergency supply.

As a direct response to the urgent need to drive significant improvements in safety standards, JFD developed the COBRA rebreather set which provides an advanced emergency bailout provision that greatly extends the supply of emergency breathing gas, providing a supply of up to 33 minutes at a depth of 120 metres.

Earlier this year JFD delivered six COBRA sets to Bibby Offshore in order to enhance diver safety, and since delivery the company has successfully completed the first test dives in the North Sea. Bibby Offshore is the first North Sea contractor to adopt COBRA, thereby setting a precedent for diver safety in the region.

The technology and capability exist in the market today to provide an extended emergency gas supply that will allow divers the best possible chance to get themselves to safety in the event of an incident that could threaten their lives. It is essential when undertaking operations of any nature, or in any region that divers have a reliable, advanced emergency bailout rebreather capability that will provide absolute assurance that they can conduct their operations in the safest conditions possible.

Graeme Clark, Head of Sales – Commercial Products – JFD