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Life lessons: Alan Fritz

by Arabian Oil & Gas Staff on May 11, 2014


Alan Fritz
Alan Fritz

I was studying drama in school believe it or not and my dad asked me what I wanted to do, so I said I wanted to carry on with drama and go to Hollywood. He told me he wasn’t paying for me to be a sissy. So my mum suggested I join the navy because I am always surfing and in the water. So I joined the permanent force in the navy.

When I joined the navy and they asked me what I wanted to do, I said ‘What’s the hardest course you can do? They said diver. I have been absolutely passionate about diving since then. That was 1985.

We are not made for the water, we are not fish, but someone has to do the job. I made myself a job title, I am a bubble formation aquatic engineer. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, someone is going to ask you what you do, now when they ask me I speak clearly and slowly, a bubble formation aquatic engineer.

Half of the group look at you funny and move away, the people who are a bit brighter will eventually come up to you and say so what do you actually do? You end up speaking to the people that are interested in life.

I spent about 13 years in the navy doing all the diving courses, then I got involved in the offshore industry. The thing about the offshore industry is that no matter what you learned in the navy, once you are in the offshore industr y you have to start right at the bottom because there are big machines, it is completely different operations, it is louder; it is dangerous.

If you are willing to start at the bottom and go through all the steps, only then will you succeed in the oil & gas industry.

We were on one job and the shackle had a nut and bolt in it. The bolt, I could sit inside the thread of the bolt, just to give you an idea of the sheer size of the nut and shackle.

Underwater everything changes, it takes you years to get experience and ever y year you get more experience, you never become good, you just become more acquainted and used to it.

That is what you want. If you get more acquainted and used to everything you tend to work more safely. I have noticed that in the last couple of years a lot of people want to become divers, but they want to become divers for the money. 

I have noticed that in the last couple of years there are many more people joining the diving industry. Especially people with other qualifications, even lawyers. But I have noticed that the guys with trades seem to be climbing the ladder the fastest, due to being a hands on skilled people. The diving industry seems to be very saturated at this stage.

My very first job in the industry was in Mosgas, I was the diving supervisor and we used to maintain single point moorings, which is something that floats on the surface where tankers collect their crude from.

To work offshore is hard, out of all of my friends that work offshore, I can count three people that are still married today. There is a lot of money out there, but life is not that easy unless both of you really agree that is what you want to do.

Working offshore sounds fun and glorious, yes it is, the money is there, but there is no life. You work 12 hours every day, there are no weekends, you are off for 12 hours, you do that constantly for up to three months, sometimes longer.

The food is free, the accommodation is free, you get lots of money, but you are all prisoners. It is jail out there. You get money for it; that is all.

I was on my saturation diver course and back then I paid $18,000 to do my course. When I got down to 107 metres I had to look for one pebble and my pebble was worth $18,000 and I still have the pebble at home.

My safety record is still 100% because I run everything in the military style. Communication and drawings to me is important. You need to explain to divers exactly what to do. They may say yes they understand, but you can see they don’t. You need to draw pictures, no matter how clever the guy is you need to draw pictures. The full crew must be clear on the brief before one diver gets into the water.

Managerial positions. There are lots of challenges when being in a managerial position, the challenges are completely different to working offshore. It is a very demanding job. It is kind of like a 24/7 role.

 

Things go on that shouldn’t go on. I believe if you do everything right you never have to look over your shoulder.


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