Jai Thapa, vice president (technical) operations, Dolphin Offshore Enterprise India Limited speaks to Mini Pant Zachariah.
How acute is the manpower shortage in sub-sea diving?
Three years ago, if Dolphin Offshore got a contract for two or three big jobs, we would consider it a great year. In the last couple of years, the work has multiplied four-fold. There is an acute shortage of good hands. India constitutes one per cent of divers and almost every average and above-average diver is employed globally. Because of the damage to offshore structures in Mexico after Hurricane Katrina and because of the high demand for oil internationally, we are hiring boys and training them for the job. But the demand is far more than what the training schools can churn out. Now Dolphin Offshore is looking at starting its own training school for divers.
What educational qualification is needed to be a sub-sea diver?
It is a career you can start at the age of 18. You need to have completed your 10+2. You first train to be an air diver then a mixed gas diver and then saturation diver. There are excellent schools in the UK, Australia, and the US which offer these courses. They are a bit expensive - Rs 3.5 lakh for a four-month air-diving course and Rs 8 lakh for sat-diver course - but the returns are very good.
Isn't it a dangerous profession?
It is far safer than crossing roads in Mumbai. Actually, the training for sub-sea divers is very thorough and the need for safety precautions is drilled into the diver. Accidents scare us all. We do not take chances and push the working parameters. It is someone's life you are responsible for. Everything has a 100 to 300 per cent back up so that accidents are averted.
What is the career prospect for sub-sea divers in the next 5 years?
With increased demand for divers from across the world, the divers will be in big demand. As it is these boys are making packages. Depending on experience and qualification, an air diver can make Rs 2,500 to 10,000 a day, a mixed-air diver anywhere between Rs 5,000 and 10,000 and a sat diver Rs 12,000 to Rs 18,000, apart from the allowances that are of global standard.
Is there an early burnout given that it is mentally and physically so challenging?
Fifteen years ago, I decided to stop being a sat diver. Normally, by the age of 45 people tend to withdraw from active diving, but there are some sat divers aged 50 too.