A contractor recently contacted us and requested our advice on a
safety flash published by an IOGP member in 2022, where it is
stated that the primary duty of the diving supervisor is to carefully
manage the divers' decompression to bring them back to the
surface in perfect health. Therefore, anything that might distract
the supervisor during the decompression phases must be avoided,
and for this reason, cellphones are prohibited in the dive control
when working on their oilfields. This happened because a
supervisor once omitted the 3m stop of his diver while playing with
Even though we can applaud and strongly support the idea that the
diving supervisors’ primary function is to take care of the divers
under their responsibility, we note a conflict between the
professional qualities required by this function and the authoritarian
measure of forbidding the use of a communication tool that can be
helpful to the supervisor based on the mistake of only one person.
In fact, should we think that the smartphone is responsible for the
incident and therefore must be banned from the control room, or
that some supervisors allowed to operate by this company have the
mental age of an 8-year-old child, considering that this kind of
measure is the punishment level we inflict on naughty kids? Thus,
we can consider that, as explained in our "Food for Thought"
discussion “About Standards”, this kind of measure is based on an
inadequate strategy that consists of infantilizing the personnel to
better control them.
To summarize, people who play with their phones during the
decompression phases and other sensitive processes are not
worthy of being supervisors. The smartphone is not the root cause
of the incident as this person may have used something else. Of
course, this calls into question the training and selection system that
some IOGP members implement, rather than whether having a
smartphone in the dive control should be restricted by authoritarian
measures that affect all the supervisors working for this client.
This is an opportunity to remind the evolution of communication
systems since the 1990s and highlight the usefulness of
smartphones and tablets.
At the beginning of the 1990s, the communication systems available
to the diving and ROV teams on board most vessels were only VHF
radios. The first satellite phone for public use was built by Motorola
and made available only in 1998 by the company “Iridium".
Communications with such phones were extremely expensive, so
only the people in charge of the project could use them to
communicate with the shore base. Additionally, the areas covered by
the satellites were limited to the most active business zones, so
many teams continued to use only radios. In parallel, the end of the
nineties was also the era when the first public cell phones were
Radiophones were available previously, but their price, size, and
weight prohibited their use by the general public in places other
than cars or offices. Additionally, their coverage areas were limited,
which restricted their usage to only certain places.
These first public cellphones allowed only voice communication and
basic text messages. However, it was possible to use them to
transfer emails through specific and expensive services. Regarding
the internet and email, we must remember that even though the
idea and first attempts were made during the 1960s and 1970s, the
real democratization of the system started at the end of the 1980s
and the beginning of the 1990s in parallel with the development of
portable computers and operating systems, such as Windows,
macOS, and Linux, that can be used by people without specific
We began to have internet connections on board vessels between the
years 2000 and 2010, depending on the companies. These
connections were initially limited to the on-board management and
later extended to the other team members with metered
connections. It should also be noted that during this period, many
clients and companies have made the presence of a satellite phone
in the dive control mandatory. Note that wireless systems, such as
Wi-Fi, were first released in 1997 and were gradually installed on
vessels approximately after the year 2010, so when the
development of satellite communications made it possible to obtain
services at more reasonable prices than during the 1980s. The
generalization of Wi-Fi on vessels happened in parallel with the
development of tablets and the new generation of cell phones,
commonly called "smartphones," during the same period. These
devices have introduced technical progress, such as touch screens,
and are at least 10 times more powerful than the notebooks we
used during the 1980s.
As a conclusion to this short history, we can see that electronic
technologies evolve quickly, and not taking this into account is a
major mistake. Smartphones and tablets are also a part of most
people's lives today, especially among the younger generation, and
this fact should be taken into account.
With the Wi-Fi connection now installed on most Diving Support
Vessels (DSVs), tablets and smartphones can be used to provide the
Portable satellite phone
Motorola model 1998
Cellular phone Nokia 5110
Radiophone Motorola model MCR 9500 XL
It is the reason why, instead of
forbidding them in chambers, the CCO
Ltd diving management study #8,
“Set a policy for electronic devices in
chambers”, recommends controlling
them and implementing similar
measures to those already in force in
the airline industry.
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Communication with the appointed diving doctor:
A tablet or smartphone has the advantage of enabling video
conversations through systems such as WhatsApp, Line,
WeChat, Skype, Skred, Telegram, and many others. This
provides the doctor with the possibility to guide the “diver
medics”, who are not real nurses and require professional
guidance. The cameras provided to the latest generation of
these devices allow sending high-definition pictures to the
doctor, which may enable him to observe in detail a wound or
the external condition of the casualty.
Note that conference call programs such as Microsoft Teams,
Meet, Webex, FreeConferenceCall, and many others allow the
doctor or the diving team to organize a video meeting with
Additionally, documents and instructions can be sent, which can
be visualized on the device through these programs or
traditional email. As well as photos can be taken and sent
directly to him.
Note that, in addition to the tablet or smartphone, it is
recommended to provide the following tools:
Unscrambled phone communication will be necessary if the
divers are diving with heliox. This is possible with diver
communication systems, such as the one sold by Fathom
(http://www.fathomsystems.co.uk/). Of course, in such a
case, the doctor needs to use a second line to listen to the
diver medic in the chamber.
Also, monitoring the parameters of the casualty is essential.
This is possible with tools such as the D-MAS Remote &
HyperSat from Dan Medical (https://www.danmedical.com/),
that allow effective clinical interpretation and support from
outside the chamber, including from doctors onshore, or at
a base location (see the picture below).
Also, smartphones and tablets with access to the cellular
network can advantageously replace those using a satellite
connection when the operations are carried out onshore or
inland. Regarding this point, note that many petroleum
companies allow connections to the local cellular network on
their oilfields so that people working in these locations do not
need to use satellite phones.
Communication with the company management
It is evident that the various functions available on smartphones
and tablets can be used to communicate with the company's
management or the technical department of the company. For
example, a technician on the job site can be guided by a
specialist to solve a difficult problem using the video call
function, or a video conference call can be organized from the
site where a problem is being discussed and solved.
Secured communication on board the vessel
Several software applications can be installed on smartphones
to use them for close communication without relying on the
internet. This allows the supervisor or another onboard
manager to send messages on board without passing through
the phone, intercom, or radio.
“Bridgefy” (https://bridgefy.me/) is a system developed for
rural zones where internet coverage is poor. It uses bluetooth
to send either encrypted or unencrypted messages to
distances up to 114 m (330 ft).
“MeshMe” is another app that can work via Bluetooth or WiFi
for internal and external connections (Refer to Google Play -
“The Serval Mesh” (https://www.servalproject.org/) also uses
phones as relays and enables members of a community to
make private phone calls and send secure text messages
“Signal Offline Messenger” (https://signal.org/download/) is a
Wi-Fi-based app that allows people to communicate within a
range of up to 100 meters. Messaging could be one-on-one
or in a group. Messages sent via this app are delivered in a
“Wi-Fi Talkie Free” allows users to organize communication
between smartphone devices at distances of Wi-Fi signal
without using an internet connection or a cellular network.
Many similar apps are available for Android or Apple systems.
Pressure gauge and other sensing device data transmissions
Gauge and sensor manufacturers are gradually designing
systems with displays on tablets and smartphones.
Auto Meter (https://www.autometer.com/dashlink-ii-obdii-
digital-gauges-apple-ios-android.HTML) is a manufacturer of
digital gauges with displays on Android and iOS devices.
gas-equipment/smart-devices/) is another
pressure gauge manufacturer that provide
systems with displays on smartphones or
tablets using bluetooth connection. This
system is appropriate for situations where
the cylinder or point-of-use station might be in another room
or outdoors (oxygen). The system also allows monitoring of
gas reserves stored in a yard far from the job site.
There are many apps and hardware devices that can be used
to monitor areas via cell phones and tablets. They offer features
such as local streaming, cloud streaming, recording and storing
footage locally or remotely, and motion detection and alerts.
Many programs use the internet, allowing the user to monitor a
remote area from the job site.
Also, a wireless video transmitter and receiver can be used to
display video from a camera on a tablet via WiFi. Numerous
systems are available on the market that are often used on
drones, and for multiple applications such as reporting and
surveillance. Their maximum range is approximately 300m,
which is widely sufficient for transmissions on the job site. We
can, for example, consider the three following brands, but keep
in mind that many other manufacturers are present in this
DJI transmission (https://www.dji.com/global/transmission)
Hollyland Cosmo C1 SDI/HDMI Wireless Video Transmission
Wireless-Transmitter), that provide systems for underwater
vehicles, making them usable offshore and in rough
It is evident that the advantages of these systems are their
flexibility and reasonable price, considering that many systems
are sold for less than $1000, and that some tablets are sold at
prices below $200. They can be used to transmit video signals
to the dive control or the construction manager's office, making
the installation of video cables, which is sometimes problematic
on vessels of opportunity, obsolete.
Note that some of these Wi-Fi video transmission systems also
work with classic combos.
Wireless control of machines
As tablets and smartphones are often used to control drones,
they can also be used to remotely control other machines.
In an article called ”Smartphones and Tablets in Manufacturing,"
published on the website Control Engineering
tablets-in-manufacturing/), it is explained that the natural
progression is for industrial applications to explore the
possibility of adopting smartphones, tablets, and wearable
devices in manufacturing environments.
We can see that the list of applications that can be done through
tablets is large and continues to expand, so I probably have missed
many applications. Thus, depriving supervisors and other on-site
managers of these useful tools should be considered a move
against logical historical ways.
Of course, it questions the authoritarian management methods of
some people who, instead of investigating a problem and looking for
balanced and appropriate measures, prefer using infantilization
procedures to solve it to the detriment of their company and the
people they are supposed to ensure the well-being of.
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