Little Campbell River company making a big global splash

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There is a small business making waves not just off local shores but as faraway as Panama.

Campbell River’s own DiveSafe International is being used as an example for Small Business Week (Oct. 19-25), a national celebration of Canadian entrepreneurs and their contribution to our economy.

While Campbell River remains the anchor for the business, owners Kelly and Catherine Koral are working on two programs in Panama, one certifying divers to work in open ocean aquaculture and also for certifying divers who work in ships husbandry in the Panama Canal. “We mostly teach here in Campbell River but we have taught courses in St. John’s, Newfoundland, St. George, New Brunswick, and just recently we taught a surface supply diving course to the Masset First Nation band in Haida Gwaii,” said Koral, who started DiveSafe International in 2006, after the commercial diving program at North Island College was cut, along with his instructor position.

“I knew there was a need and a market for local commercial divers so I struck out on my own with DiveSafe and we’ve been going strong ever since,” said Koral, who has trained and graduated over 600 divers.

“Most divers come from other provinces and we have had students from Trinidad, France, Equador, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States,” he said.

“Last year we trained over 100 divers, making us the commercial dive school with the most graduates in Canada.”Koral said they do not get many local high school graduates signing up for the diving school. He wants to get the word out that there are great, well paying jobs here on the north end of the Island.

Koral considers the job market very good for the people who attend the five-week commercial scuba diving course, describing a situation where students “graduate on Friday and are working on Monday.””Employers are calling us constantly looking for our grads,” said Koral. “These young guys and gals need to know that they don’t have to go to Fort Mac for work, they can stay here and really do well.”Most DiveSafe graduates find work in the growing aquaculture industry. Others work in environmental assessment, scientific diving, engineering inspection, marine construction, the film industry, seafood harvesting and search and recovery. Because of the regulation involved in the industry, Koral described the work as very safe, as well as interesting.

“It’s full of variety. Always changing, different sites, different projects, and always on the go,” he said.

Koral trains divers to the CSA (Canadian Standards) which he said are the highest in the world.”We teach a commercial scuba and inshore surface supply diver course. We are working towards developing an offshore surface supply diver course in the future. Plans for the future are continuous expansion and working towards being Canada’s premier commercial diving school.”In the meantime, students are learning skills they never thought would come in handy. “One of our dive projects is to build a wooden box underwater,” said Koral. “A student had complained bitterly about the project saying ‘never in a million years will I have to build a wooden box underwater’.”

Five years later Koral was working with the same student, now graduated, and working on a hydro dam.

“He was in the water and I was operating the divers radio, when after a few minutes of him having to saw and hammer together a box for a concrete form, he calls up over the radio and said ‘I remember saying in class that in a million years I’d never be building a wooden box underwater and guess what, here I’m building a wooden box underwater’. Well the topside crew had a good laugh.”

For information on how to build a box under water, and other in-demand skills, contact DiveSafe at 250-287-3837 or go to divesafe.com.

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