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Ullapool man, Chris Steventon, has spent most of his 30 year career at sea; from a fisherman in his early 20s to starting a new business venture in mussel farming on the west coast of Scotland. After spells as a sales rep in the medical industry and then in the financial services sector, the lure of the sea brought him back to the underwater world last year when he decided to forge a career as an ROV Pilot Technician.
He said: ‘After trying my hand at a couple of jobs which were more office based, I missed working in a marine environment and also the technical challenges of running a mussel farm. I was looking for a new career that would last me until my retirement and that was a bit more hands on. Plus I wanted a career that could be quite lucrative.
Preparing for offshore work
‘I wanted to go offshore and I decided that working as an ROV Pilot Tech was the best way to do that, so I signed up to 7 week Premium ROV course at The Underwater Centre, which I’d heard was the place to go to gain any sort of diving or ROV accreditation.’
‘The course was great because it mixed classroom learning with some real hands on experience. It was great to be able to get to grips with flying the ROVs. My first flying session was, on one hand, exactly what I expected, but on the other, a total shock! After some practice and with close supervision and guidance from The Underwater Centre staff, it became a lot easier.’
‘The skills which I learned during my time at The Underwater Centre are vital to my job, but there is so much more to learn, a lot of which can only be done while actually working.
‘I think though the fact that I have a recognised qualification in my SQA Award was definitely a contributing factor to the speed in which I got a job in the industry. I think that if an employer sees this then they have a degree of peace of mind in the person they are employing and the abilities which they bring to the organisation.
‘When I started I was happy to take whatever I could get. Recently though, I’ve been working through Oceanscan Agency for ‘N-SEA’ Dutch company. It’s mainly inspection work using inspection class ROV with CP probe and FMD frame and working in the North Sea on vessel inspecting oil and gas platforms. At the moment I’m waiting for travel details for a trip with Intergrated Subsea Ltd, working with a Sub-Atlantic Vehicle in the North Sea over the Christmas and New Year period.’
‘A typical day is mostly flying the ROV and occasional repair of ROV. I have done a mixture of inspection work, DSV work and work class work throughout the past year. Shifts have been 12 hours but sometimes longer; I was recently having to do a succession of 16-18 hour shifts to fully mobilise two ROV’s!’
Best bits about offshore work as an ROV Pilot Technician
‘The best bits are the money of course, but also the lifestyle. When you are off at home you are totally free to relax, it’s very satisfactory payback for the hardship of working away and long hours. The worst bit is sometimes the waiting, waiting on transit, waiting on weather, especially if you don’t have a good book to read!’
The appeal of offshore work was always the potential breaks in between working. OK, you’re away at work for four weeks, but you work hard for those four weeks and then you have four weeks to spend focusing 100% on your family and personal life. You can’t do that at a desk-job; you can’t help but bring the responsibilities and worries home with you at the end of the day.
‘I would certainly recommend this sector to anyone, however, you must do your own research and analyse your own situation and decide from there whether or not it’s for you.’