Working In The Forties Oil Field

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So here I am again 4 day's at home and back on a supply vessel heading out to the Forties Oil Field, I had taken my sea sickness tablets, the weather was a little kinder than my first experience only about a 10 ft swell. I lasted a few hours before I began to feel ill, however the trip was only about 6 hours, after throwing up for the last two of them we arrived along side the derrick barge I was contracted too.


Once on board and settled in, glad to learn I was on the day shift not nights. I was introduced to the American team I was working with due to my age I was nicknamed "junior" with I thought was pretty cool until it was: " junior go and do this", "junior go and do that". I found out for these American barges to work the North Sea they HAD to employ so many UK residents, therefore they picked the cheapest form of employee, even though I had renegotiated my daily rate from £16.00 to £23.00 I was brought on board and used as a general labourer so defiantly no dive time here either.

On this barge there were two systems, the job was repairing an oil storage tank that had crushed like an empty coke can. The damaged section had to be cut away and the new section replaced and welded into place. This was a big operation and need two teams to work in unison to get the job done.  The link below gives you an idea of how slow working under water can be when doing manual jobs. It also shows how the bell gets your to your job.

On board the food was good, plenty of steaks and pizza along with BBQ set up on deck. One experience was we had high winds arrive gusting to around 90knots, walking across the deck was certainly different in these conditions. A person was able to bend into the wind with their legs straight without falling over. 

We had a worrying time when danger came to call. A diver was showering in the bell when it was married up to the main chamber, all was well until the seal on the bottom bell door spilt causing a massive gas leak. Quick thinking the diver inside the bell managed to escape through the lock into the main chamber before the pressure dropped too much, slamming the door and sealing him in there. He was very shook up if he had been trapped in there he would have literally exploded as the gas expanded at a massive rate in his system.

Also on board this barge was the new JIM suit, this was new technology that would hopefully eliminate saturation on some dives in the future.

The JIM suit is an atmospheric diving suit (ADS), which is designed to maintain an interior pressure of one atmosphere despite exterior pressures, eliminating the majority of physiological dangers associated with deep diving. Because there is no need for special gas mixtures, and there is no danger of nitrogen narcosis or decompression sickness (the 'bends'); the occupant does not need to decompress when returning to the surface. It was invented in 1969 by Mike Humphrey and Mike Borrow, partners in the English firm Underwater Marine Equipment Ltd (UMEL), assisted by Joseph Salim Peress, whose Tritonia diving suit acted as their main inspiration. The suit was named after Jim Jarrett, Peress' chief diver.


The petrochemical industry was unwilling to finance their research, but a grant was obtained from the British government, and a new company, DHB Construction (for Dennison, Hibberd and Borrow), was formed to develop the suit. The first JIM suit was completed in November 1971 and underwent initial trials aboard HMS Reclaim in early 1972. Two dives were conducted to depths in excess of 400 ft (121 m), and were limited only by the depth of the ambient divers providing support. Further development and testing continued until March 4, 1974, when Mike Humphrey conducted a chamber dive to the equivalent of 1,000 ft (300 m). The US Navy Experimental Diving Unit conducted tests in 1976.[1]

In spite of the successful tests, the offshore petroleum industry still expressed little interest in the suit and it was not until 1975, when Oceaneering acquired DHB Construction and exclusive rights to the application of JIM suits in the oilfields, that the suit achieved success. This did not however please the British government, who after contributing money to the suit's development, did not want to see it being "given" to an American company over a British one. However, at the time, British diving concerns, most notably 2W, doubted the suit's abilities and therefore passed on purchasing the operating rights.

Its first commercial deployment was in 1974, when JIM suits were used in the recovery of lost oil tanker anchor chains in a Canary Islands harbor. In 1976 the JIM suit was used for a series of four dives on PanArtic's Hecla M25 well which were made through a hole cut in an ice floe 16 feet (5 m) thick, on which the rig was positioned, the first dive setting a record for the longest working dive below 490 feet (149 m), five hours and 59 minutes at a depth of 905 feet (275 m). In 1979, oceanographer Sylvia Earle set a human depth record of 1250 feet (381m) using a JIM suit.[2]

The Arctic dives of 1976 proved that the JIM was capable of performing oilfield operations in very cold and very deep water; the average water temperature at the wellhead was measured at -1.6C (29°F), while the average internal suit temperature was about 10C (50°F). The operators needed no more than a heavy woollen sweater for thermal protection. The following year the JIM suit was used on over 35 jobs with an average duration of over two hours and in depths varying from 300 to 1,130 feet (100 to 394 m), and by 1981, 19 JIM suits had been produced.

The JIM suit and its variations enjoyed great success in the offshore oil industry for many years, although their effectiveness was hampered by the unwillingness of oil companies to install walkways around submerged sections of oil platforms. An experimental thruster pack that would connect to the existing JIM models was designed, but the suit gradually fell out of use with Oceaneering as their new WASP suit, a mid-water vehicle, became the favourite of contractors. The JIMs were still used by the company during the 1980s, including in a joint SAM and WASP recovery of a Wellington Bomber from Loch Ness in 1986, and were often used as back-up standby units for the rapidly advancing WASP suit. By 1990, the JIM suit was no longer commercially operated. Today, some of them may be viewed at museums across the world, along with many lightweight replica versions.

The JIM Suit is, perhaps, best known to the general public for its appearance in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, although it played a larger role in the 1989 sci-fi/horror film DeepStar Six.

For many years, a replica of the JIM suit was on display at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

This suit was heading on the next job in the Norwegian Fjords, sadly my contract had come to an end and I didn't get to witness this then new technology in action. Picking up the supply boat again, bouts of sickness on my way to the shores of the UK. My journey in the North Sea had ended, I was impatient to dive, I had been trained and it was apparent I was not going to get any wet experience working in the North Sea.

After giving it some thought I decided to pursue diving with Civil Engineering companies the new journey began !! 

I am happy and fulfilled, I have a property business and an online business. I have learnt to serve others ( as I hope I am doing now ) respect others for what they are trying to achieve no matter how big or small their ambition. I work on my attitude each day and look to help anyone I can on a daily basis.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, please share like or comment.

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