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Surviving the Alaskan Waters

August 7, 2014

Alaskan waters are one of the most inhospitable places to conduct work for commercial divers in the oil and gas industry sector. Companies dealing with infrastructure, rig repairs, pipeline installation, maintenance, inspection and surveys battle the dangerous environment that Alaska has to offer. Some of these energy industry facilities are found in Cook Inlet, situated from Alaska Gulf to Anchorage in southern Alaska.

Extreme weather conditions, unpredictable tides, limited visibility and predators lurking around the vicinity are just few of the hazards that a commercial diver in this particular area has to endure. Workers must undergo extreme training in order to overcome obstacles related to their jobs. 

“The conditions in Cook Inlet are some of the most challenging diving conditions in the world,” Tom Ulrich said, American Marine Corporation’s regional manager.

“In addition to dealing with thirty-plus-foot tidal fluctuations and extreme currents, divers are only able to dive at slack tide, which gives them a very narrow operational window. Because there is very little visibility—they are diving in blackwater conditions—divers have to operate by feel; high intensity light just reflects off of the water. They have to be very competent at performing each task; otherwise, they’d never be able to finish their jobs in the time allowed.”

Global Diving & Salvage Incorporated has been operating in Alaska since the 1980’s. Offering wide range of services including commercial diving, vessel operations and emergency response projects. The company’s general manager Deirdre Gross said that being able to go to remote places like Cook Inlet is already a painstaking task. Divers must be well-prepared, highly skilled and equipped with the necessary tools while working to ensure their safety and at the same time meet the client’s expectations according to schedule.

Ocean Marine Services, Inc. (OMSI) in Nikiski and Kirkland, Washington places their divers under apprenticeship program first after they have graduated from commercial diving schools and thoroughly guided by tenured divers. The apprentices are initially responsible for minor tasks on deck and eventually given more challenging roles. Safety of the workers is still the major priority of these companies operating in harsh environments such as Cook Inlet.

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