Sitting before a wide dashboard of switches, dials, regulators, gauges and screens, Sultan Al Ahmadi’s eyes are a flurry of activity as they focus in on the many numbers and valves before him.
He flicks a switch and adjusts a dial. He has to be precise. There’s no room for complacency.
Al Ahmadi is on board the Zamil Six. Around 20 feet away, Abdullah F. Al Amiri feels the effects of Al Ahmadi’s actions. Al Amiri is sitting patiently inside a LARS — a metal cage measuring 6 feet by 3 feet, as it stands perilously close to the edge.
The meshed cage that surrounds him is attached to a winch that will soon shift into gear and lower both the cage and occupant into the Arabian Gulf waters below.
Donning a diving helmet that weighs approximately 15 kilograms, Al Amiri’s every move is tracked by a camera and two-way communication system that is part of his essential headgear. It’s Al Ahmadi who is keeping a close eye on the whole proceedings, communicating directly via radio.
Al Amiri is a Saudi Aramco diver. As part of the Marine Department’s Underwater Inspection and Repair Unit (UIRU), his working world is subsea — among the marine and plant life of the Arabian Gulf. Today he is performing an underwater inspection of the Zamil Six vessel. Along with fellow divers, their job is to inspect, repair, and maintain the integrity of company offshore assets, including barges, vessels, platforms, and pipelines.
His wingman on this job is Al Ahmadi, a diving supervisor who is responsible for the pre-dive safety checks and the dive and diver in general — from the time he leaves the surface to completing his decompression and reaching the surface again. Before Al Amiri, or any diver for that matter, submerges, the diving supervisor must give the green light.
The UIRU serves as Saudi Aramco’s eyes, ears and indeed hands, beneath the sea. Divers, equipped with a sniper’s vision, are dispatched to carry out detailed work in an environment that was not created for human interaction.
“The team amazes me,” says Marine Department manager Mohammad A. Sultan. “They are always ready, no matter what it takes, to get the job done.”
The UIRU is a testament to Saudi Aramco’s efforts to ensure that its operations are optimal, efficient, and above all, safe — no matter the environment.