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Underwater Centre Trains First Ever Angolan Saturation Divers

23 April 2012

The Underwater Centre in Fort William has recently finished training the first ever Angolans as saturation divers.

Antonio Quetes and Antonio Njiva, who work for Angolan oil and gas service provider Operatec LDA, were taking part in the three-week HSE Closed Bell course.

The HSE Closed Bell course teaches experienced divers the procedures and competencies required to dive using a saturation system.

Saturation divers live in a chamber, for up to 28 days, which is pressurised to the same pressure of the sea at the depth that they will be working at. Living and working at pressure means that they can be transported quickly and efficiently to the work site under the water without decompression stops, allowing divers to work to much greater depths and for much longer periods of time than on air.

As Operatec expands the scale and scope of its diving service in Angola it aims to offer its customers saturation diving support. The increasing breadth of maintenance and repair activities required to maintain Angola’s subsea infrastructure is making it more cost effective to introduce saturation diving to the company’s service offering.

Both students are currently working with Operatec on a maintenance and inspection job for a major oil and gas organisation and as the field becomes more mature, the need for them to be trained in saturation diving has become more important to ensure the upkeep of the field.

Now these students have completed their training, Operatec is to send a further 8-10 Angolan employees to the Centre over the coming years.

Steve Ham, General Manager at The Centre, said: "It is great that Operatec have chosen The Underwater Centre to train the first ever Angolans in saturation diving and we’re delighted to instruct these men, who have an excellent attitude, in our HSE standards of safety and professionalism.

"The industry in Angola, and Africa as a whole, is growing and as a result there is going to be an increased need for local Angolan divers who are trained in all aspects of the job. Operatec and The Underwater Centre both strive for the highest levels in health and safety and I think this is very important as organisations in this region try to meet the needs of the industry.”

Operatec’s Director, Lynn Holcomb, recently visited the Centre to view the facilities, meet with staff and get a better understanding of where her employees would be training.

She added: "There were a number of reasons that Operatec chose The Underwater Centre to carry out their saturation diver training. After carrying out research we felt that The Underwater Centre was more responsive to the company’s need and the three week course was more compact so fitted in well with our diving rotations.

"Oil and gas is currently the biggest industry in Angola. Previously, companies brought in personnel from outside of Angola, but the Angolan government laws requires companies to recruit and train Angolans in the oil and gas sector. Here at Operatec we have always been keen to use local resources and are therefore hugely supportive of these laws.

"Our current Health and Safety procedures are more stringent than is legally required because we recognise the importance of safety in efficient and competent diving operations, and this is another reason for choosing The Underwater Centre, as they have built a reputation which focuses on quality and safety."

Antonio Njiva added: "I came many miles to do this course, but it is the best school and I was happy to train there. I’ve been made to feel very welcome.

"I have worked for 14 years without studying though so it is not easy! The instructors here know how to deal with this. They have a lot of experience and they’ve also been in the working environment so they know what we need to know and how to teach it at a level which we understand.”

The Centre delivers a number of other subsea training courses, such as Remotely Operated Vehicle pilot technician training as well as the internationally recognised HSE air and mixed gas commercial diving courses, which are all designed to equip students with the skills they will need to succeed in their careers.

The Underwater Centre is a purpose built training facility which incorporates an extensive pier complex including four dive stations, classrooms, workshops and decompression chambers.

In addition to this, there are three fully equipped barges set up to support a variety of diving disciplines including closed bell, wet bell and surface supplied diving. With accommodation and additional classrooms based at the landward end of the pier, The Underwater Centre is set up to provide its students with the skills and experience to succeed in their new careers.