Some divers affected by ‘bizarre symptoms’ after record-breaking dive have yet to be interviewed by investigation
Divers who took part in the deepest commercial dive in Australian history in July 2017 and later reported neurological problems have not yet been interviewed for the investigation into the incident, for health reasons.
The country’s National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) “has been unable to interview all of the divers involved due to previously advised health issues,” according to NOPSEMA communications manager Nicholas Page.
Its senior communications adviser Courtney Strom added that 15 divers were involved in the campaign and that NOPSEMA had sought their cooperation. Asked how many had been interviewed, she relayed a statement from an unnamed NOPSEMA spokesperson who said “it would not be appropriate for NOPSEMA to go into greater detail regarding the number of divers involved in the investigation due to the ongoing nature of the matter.”
"Local reports stated that the divers were displaying ‘bizarre neurological symptoms’"
Mr Page said that the organisation “still wishes to interview the divers once they are in a position to engage with the investigation, to attempt to validate the elements of their complaints.” NOPSEMA’s investigation “has involved a number of phases and a number of ‘duty holders’ [and] is expected to continue for a number of months,” he added. Other duty holders involved in the incident “are continuing to cooperate”, he said.
The investigation stems from a saturation dive campaign down to 272 m undertaken in June and July 2017, from Skandi Singapore by DOF Subsea, to repair a pipeline for Inpex Australia’s Ichthys LNG project. Towards the end of that year, reports emerged of long-term adverse effects suffered by personnel who took part in the dive. In January, local reports stated that the divers were displaying ‘bizarre neurological symptoms’.
DOF Subsea did not respond to Offshore Support Journal’s invitation to comment on the situation, but it published a statement on its website in April that said the operator was assisting NOPSEMA to investigate all elements of the diving campaign “to gain a fuller understanding of matters being reported by some of the divers involved.” It also said that it was providing support to those divers and that “when the matters are fully understood, we expect the results to be shared with the industry.”
That statement was released at about the time of a press report in April in Perth-based newspaper The Sunday Times that quoted a lawyer representing some of the divers. It said that it was not until November 2017 that NOPSEMA was alerted to the divers’ problems and that NOPSEMA had approved DOF Subsea’s diving project plan, which included a fast compression schedule.
• NOPSEMA has updated its diving guidelines and published a third edition of its Guidelines for complying with the Diving Safety Regulations on 18 June. It reflects updates in Australia’s Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Storage Act 2006 and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Storage (Safety) Regulations 2009, its introduction notes.
It draws attention to one particular section, which affects the requirements for preparing a diving safety management system, but Mr Page told OSJ that this update was not related to the DOF Subsea investigation.
A notice on NOPSEMA’s website advises that the organisation “intends to conduct a wider-ranging review of the guidelines in late 2018”.