The following is a excerpt from a large government doc**ent on the Lousiana Offshore Oil Industry. Enjoy.

As the processes and techniques associated with underwater construction evolved, a very

specialized labor force was required. Though some jobs, such as pipeline installation and

platform removal, had fairly standard procedures, no two jobs were ever the same. Accidents,

hurricanes, and general wear and tear presented unfamiliar circ**stances for even experienced

divers. Pride and the fear that one diver would outdo another and win over a customer kept

divers attempting new feats:

When [the barge] capsized, they had about a 130 foot derrick standing. It

capsized and the derrick bent out to the middle of the river. They couldn’t do

anything. They couldn’t move it because the derrick had the barge anchored. It

was upside down and you had this derrick bent out towards the middle of the

river. I went down and burnt and cut it loose to where it dropped. That was kind

of scary and I don’t know if I would do that today. The other divers flat out

refused to do it. I said that I would do it (Daspit, personal communication, 2002).

Maryann Galletti, wife of John Galletti and co-owner of J&J Diving, describes how the company


We started working out of a garage with two sets of diving equipment and no

vehicle. We gradually acquired equipment, property, a building. Within a span of

ten years, we had also bought a tractor trailer truck. John informed me he was

going to buy this tractor trailer truck for $12,000 and I liked to have a heart attack.

He had the sights to see the work that was out there and all I could see was more

money, more money. It was like you would pay for one thing before you moved

onto another (Galletti, personal communication, 2002).

The era of the small companies was short lived. The rapid advance to deeper waters required

specialized equipment and knowledge to enable divers to work safely at ever-increasing depths.

Thus, during the 1950’s and early 1960’s the diving companies went through the process of

getting organized (Batteau 2001). A steady increase in offshore activity during the 1960’s drove

up demand for divers and meant that existing companies expanded and new ones formed. “The

explosive growth of offshore oil exploration and development brought round-the-clock overtime

and deep diving premiums. There was a lot of money being made by the younger divers, though

it was often at great risk” (Parker 1997, page 115). Divers were put into the water with little, if

any, training, and the greater depths substantially increased the risks associated with


In addition, divers were under tremendous pressure to perform. The hierarchical nature of the

industry and separation of those with the ultimate authority over decisions from those on the

barges, rigs, platforms, and vessels led to circ**stances within which divers were pushed to dive

even when conditions would dictate otherwise. Both when divers were called out in an

emergency and when they performed routine tasks such as laying pipelines, the work of people at

the surface was halted until the diver was out of the water. Entire crews were held captive on

barges and platforms while divers completed their work. Though the situation gave divers a

certain amount of autonomy, it also resulted in significant peer pressure to get the job done

quickly. Walt Daspit captures the sentiments expressed by most of the early divers:

[The barge captain] can’t say [to a diving company] you have to put this man in

the water. But, the next time they call for divers, he can say that he doesn’t want

whoever out here. So, you have to keep the barge captain happy. The main thing

in keeping the barge captain happy is getting the job accomplished….The barge

was surging. It was going up and down. The water was picking up. They wanted

me to go down and cut the pulling head loose. When I went down, the barge

surged down and I had my hand on the top of the handrail. A huge block, about 7

or 8 feet tall, came down and side-swiped my hand. My hand just went numb. I

unshackled the block and I was going back up to the surface….When I got to the

surface, I pulled the glove off and my finger was just hanging by a string (Daspuit,

personal communication, 2002).

would-be divers were not hard to find. Andre Galerne, a company owner and early member of

the Association for Diving Contractors, commented on the problems associated with low diver

pay and benefits in the Gulf of Mexico:

The price we were paying the divers was in my book much too low, and if a guy

can make the same amount of money by selling hamburgers to Big Mac, than to

be a diver, I think it’s exploiting the fact that the guy likes diving. [If we

advertised this as something other than diving], then the people will not be doing

that for the pleasure, so they will demand money. Diving is a different thing. The

guy is ready to dive at any price, because they want to dive (Galerne, personal

communication, 2001).

Joe Schouest (personal communication, 2002) confirmed this, “I love diving. I’d dive for

nothing. Sometimes I’ve done it. I like the challenge.”

Though divers and welders were easy to find, engineers were not. Several companies struggled

to find people to enter the industry. According to Anthony Gaudiano,

Of course, you have to understand in those days, nobody wanted to be associated

with us. We were kind of wild outlaws and anybody who had any smarts would

look at this little two by four organization and say, ‘I can go to work for General

Motors. Why should I be associated with this little bitty place?’ There were a few

who saw the potential but not very many. We didn't get the experts until quite a

number of years later when the revenue and the reputation were worldwide

(Gaudiano, personal communication, 1996).

Due to the high costs of specialized equipment such as decompression chambers and a pool of

divers who would work under almost any conditions, the organizational culture of diving was at

first slow to change.

Many companies continued to operate at the margins of safety, but injuries, deaths, and

expanding liability caught the attention of the oil companies. In the early 1960’s, Joe and Tom

Sanford came to Louisiana as outsiders and were able to establish a clientele and obtain work

because at that time they were one of the only diving companies working in the oilfield with

insurance. Soon the largest companies were requiring proof of insurance, and by the mid-1970’s

the substantial extension of depth limits proved to be too expensive to be undertaken by

individual companies and required a joint industry financial program (Jones 1977, page 70).

Rapidly rising insurance costs and fear of government intervention and of unionization among

the divers led companies to organize the Association for Diving Contractors to develop industry

standards and address safety concerns.

The move from land to water affected the organization, or lack thereof, of the labor force. Divers

were engaged in underwater survey work beginning in 1929, about the same time that the first

efforts to organize divers began on the east coast (Parker 1997). Near shore, divers worked

alongside unionized construction crews but remained independent until pile drivers unions

successfully claimed submarine divers among their numbers. The unions are credited with

establishing better working conditions for divers on the west and east coasts. However, the move

offshore undermined union activity and influence over the offshore oil industry because oil

companies and drilling contractors operating drilling vessels were not signatory to pile driving

and diving union agreements. “Other than establishing the fledgling oil divers with standards of

safe work rules and pay scales precedent, the union had little influence over the offshore oil

diving industry” (Parker 1997, page 115). Despite significant efforts in the 1970’s, the unions

were never able to organize the labor force working in the Gulf of Mexico.

The push into deeper water drove technological development, and the larger companies

responded by establishing research divisions. J&J Marine Services, one of the few early Texas

companies that also worked out of south Louisiana, was among the few small companies that

invested substantially in research. The company owners hired an independent scientist in the

early 1960’s to help develop decompression tables. At that time, the company employed only a

few divers, but the owners recognized the critical role that science and technology would play in

the diving industry.

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Comment by Dive Diva on October 20, 2010 at 7:26pm
ADCI has always been about three things - keeping contractors costs low especially in regards to insurance, keep the divers from unionizing and to keep off the government regulating agencies radar. What this report shows is that the safety concerns haven't changed much in 45 yrs.

But don't be confusing a trade association, which is what ADCI is, with a union. They are very different animals and that is in the divers favor. The government keeps a watchful eye on trade associations. Likewise the OGP has very specific rules for those trade associations they do business with.
Comment by Jerry Babin on October 20, 2010 at 6:19pm
Thanks Diva, but it goes to show one thing. The ADC speaks in the name of safety, not wages, and then disavowes themselves on the first written page claiming no responsibility should injury or worse death occur as a result of an inexperienced tender being allowed to dive under the ADC flag, (training said by adc to be adequate). THe ADC is a Union in and of itself taking money from divers in the name of "SAFETY", but not protecting them financially or physically while its members enjoy the fat and we get the burnt trimmings.

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