Chapter 10: Indonesia
The deal was as follows. I was going out as relief supervisor, to a guy called Pat H, who was due to go on leave. The Indonesian visa was a problem, he said, as every time you left Indonesia, you had to apply for a new visa, which was expensive and time consuming, so he wanted me to stay in Indonesia for the foreseeable future. The work routine was 2 weeks on, 1 week off, and I could spend my week off anywhere I liked within Indonesia. Most of the divers chose to have their week off in Bali, which sounded OK to me. I was happy with this arrangement, filled out the necessary forms, and left my passport with him. A few days later, he sent the passport, complete with visa plus one-way flight ticket, down to the guesthouse. I flew out to Jakarta, and took a taxi to the Hotel, where Oceaneering kept a permanent double room, for divers in transit. I went to reception, handed over my passport, identified myself as from Oceaneering, and asked for the key. The guy at reception said that he didn’t have a key, so the room must be occupied. Now this seemed odd to me, as Keith had told me the room was unoccupied at the moment. I suspected the hotel was letting out the room, and went up ready for war. The room was on the 5th floor, room number something like 506. I knocked on the door, and heard noises from inside, then silence. I knocked again, harder, and the door opened a crack on the chain. A naked white man, about 25 years old, but with completely grey hair was looking out at me. I said “This is the Oceaneering room, I think!”
He said “ Oh fuck! Are you the new supervisor?” This in a strong Glaswegian accent. I agreed that I was; he took the chain off the door to let me in. 2 pretty Indonesian girls were in one of the 2 double beds, naked. He said “Do you want one of these?” I wanted to find out what the score was first., and introduced myself.
“I’m Mick Binns, the new supervisor for the “VALERIE TIDE” come to relieve Pat H tomorrow. Who are you, and what are you doing here? I was told the room should be empty.”
He said “My name’s Danny, I’ve just come in from the VALERIE, kind of on the qt, and off the books. I started blobbing up on the boat, and they agreed to send me ashore to see a medic, and then get me back offshore as soon as possible. If the office knew, the boat would be off hire for being under-crewed, and they’d sack me. This way, the boat stays on hire, and I keep my job and still get paid.”
Blobbing up was the tasty description at the time for someone who’d contracted VD, and had started getting a discharge from his penis.
I said “So you’ve been and had your penicillin jab, but then been out on the piss, and brought 2 girls back with you before you’re clear, and offer one to me? Are you right in your fucking head?”
Danny was contrite, and apologised, but said he couldn’t help himself when it came to drink and women. This was my introduction to Danny S, who, believe it or not, was an immensely likeable character. He had a tremendous lust for life, which almost cost him his life on a few occasions just in the short time I knew him. He would do anything for a laugh, and didn’t have a bad word for anyone. A good worker but reckless to the point of stupidity sometimes. Things got even worse during this short meeting. I tried to sleep while Danny was having his way all through the night with his 2 girls in the next bed, so sleep was sporadic, to say the least. I finally woke up around 7.00 to the sounds of arguing and shouting. The 2 girls were getting dressed, and were in their bra and pants, and were asking for their “taxi fare” Danny, also in his underpants, was saying “What! You are asking me for money? Do you know what that makes you? Prostitutes! What would my mother say if she thought I’d been with a prostitute!”
The 2 girls were clamouring for their money, making lots of noise, until finally Danny said he couldn’t stand it anymore. He opened the sliding window onto the balcony, and jumped off, 5 floors up. The 2 girls were screaming now, grabbed their clothes and bags and shoes, and ran out of the room. My mind was in turmoil, knowing there would be hell to pay for a dead white man occupying the same room as me, and I wasn’t looking forward to jail in Indonesia. I ran to the balcony, and looked over, to see Danny swimming in the pool, about 60 feet below. He gave me a wave. If I’d had a gun, I’d have shot him.
We flew offshore the same day, and I met the rest of the crew, including Pat H, the supervisor, who was going on leave that day. That left me with a crew of 4 divers, all very young, basically baby divers, and all Americans except for Danny. They were from CDC, an American dive school in California, in which Oceaneering may have had a financial interest. At any rate, none of them had been diving longer than 6 months, so you couldn’t call them an experienced crew. The work was easy enough, inspection of the numerous installations in the field, which was around 120 ft at the deepest, from memory. Inspections were called for as part of the terms of insurance. Each installation had to be fully inspected usually every 5 years, so the inspection would be spread over that period. An inspection consisted of a visual inspection of each leg and member, for damage and debris, plus a marine growth survey, to assess the amount of added weight to the structure. If necessary, some of the marine growth might have to be cleaned off. An anode survey would be done, to check depletion and integrity of each anode on the structure, and replacement might be called for, depending on the results of the survey. CP and U/T readings would be taken at different specified points, in order to check the anodic protection, and wall thickness of the members; Weld inspections would be performed on specified welds connecting members to the legs. This would require cleaning off of marine growth, then polishing the weld to a certain standard, and finally a video inspection of the entire weld by a qualified diver, which would be recorded onto video, and then scrutinised by a qualified inspector from an appropriate inspection company such as Lloyds or DNV.
A riser survey would check all the risers (where the pipelines rise from the seabed up to the platform) from the seabed to the surface, and the integrity of the clamps, Finally a scour survey would be conducted around the legs where they entered the seabed, and a debris survey would clear all debris from the site around the seabed. Any remedial work required would be on instruction from the client. Some fields would have multiple structures, so there was plenty of work, which would be planned out by the client. Once the work was completed, a report would be compiled by us incorporating still photos and CCTV videos which we would send ashore to our office. There the report would be reproduced in a more professional and presentable form, and sent to the client. The problem with this system was that if the client wanted a follow up to anything within the report, we would have to return to the site, await permission to anchor and moor up (dependant on the platform activities,) before attempting the work. Lots of lost time from repeating operations and travel to and fro, all resulting in lost money for the client. Things changed massively within a few years with the introduction of computers and the internet, which meant that professional reports could be prepared offshore and sent directly to the client in real time – they could tell immediately whether any follow up work was required, and that work could be done before the boat had packed up and left the site. This meant that other professionals were now becoming part of an offshore dive team, engineers, inspection co-ordinators and other associated trades depending on the job. From my point of view, things were much simpler in the early days, easier to plan and perform. Contractually, we worked 12 hour days, 7 days per week. Bigger jobs might require 24-hour cover, so there would be 2 teams working back to back. On the “VALERIE TIDE” we just had a day shift. The team might be dived out by lunchtime, in which case we would organise some equipment maintenance, or painting, but there was plenty of free time, which also meant time for mischief occasionally from the divers. The field we were working in was around 30 miles offshore. I’d only been there a few days, and we’d settled in to a decent daily work routine. I wandered out on deck one night, to see the masts of a small canoe alongside, with one of the divers leaning over talking to the guy in the canoe. I went over to see what was happening. The canoe owner had some money in his hand, and was getting ready to leave. I asked the diver what was happening, he told me the canoe had asked for bottled water, but he’d told him we couldn’t spare any. I left it at that, but we ended up in trouble the following night. I asked the Indonesian skipper to move to the next location. He was clearly worried about something, and told me we couldn’t move, because of the Spanish engineer. When I asked him what the problem was, he couldn’t, or wouldn’t tell me. I went to the engineer’s room, which was locked, and there was no response to my knocking. I went to ask the divers if they knew what was happening. They shared 1 room with 4 bunks, and all 4 of them were drunk. It seems the canoe had been despatched ashore to bring back drinks, and also 2 girls. They had been duly delivered, and paid for, and the Spanish engineer had taken both girls to his room, and wasn’t ready yet to come out. The 4 divers had retired with the drinks and were waiting their turns with the girls.
So what to do? If I called it in, the radio was the only form of communication, and everyone within 100 miles would hear the conversation. That meant that Arco, the client, would hear the call, and at the very least take us off hire, with the possibility of losing the contract, and everyone being run off. The best option was to try and keep it quiet until the divers were sober, and the engineer shagged out, but that meant having to come up with a plausible excuse for not moving, and not diving. I couldn’t blame engine troubles, as we would be taken off hire, and they would want to speak with the engineer. I told the divers that I would have them all run off unless they did as they were told. I confiscated what drinks I could find, and told them they were to hammer on the engineer’s door until he answered, and then make sure they got the girls out, and off the boat. I called Oceaneering on the radio, and told them someone had reported an oil slick in the field, did they want us to investigate? Yes they did. I entered 3 phantom dives in the logbook, the following day, and made sure the skipper entered the same details in his log. I called Oceaneering, and told them we’d anchored over a pipeline at the location of the slick, and conducted 3 dives. We’d located the pipeline, and inspected it for around 100 mtr in each direction, but no oil leak had been discovered, . There was no sign on the surface now of oil, so we were assuming the reported slick was as a result of some boat cleaning his tanks, or discarding old fuel. We were told to resume normal operations the following day, and an internal memo was circulated to all boats in the field warning them not to pollute the local waters, but bring old oil ashore where it could be disposed of properly.
By this time the divers had retrieved the 2 girls, and returned them to the canoe, waiting a few hundred yards away. We continued our inspection programme, but fate had another joker to deal to me on this trip. Pat H returned after a week, and one of the divers went on leave. Danny S had just completed a dive and was out on deck. I was in the mess, writing up dive logs, when one of the divers ran in saying Danny was in trouble. I ran out on deck, where Danny was in a state of collapse, barely conscious . We got him into the pot, and me with him. They dropped us to 60 ft for a table 5 therapeutic. I managed to get Danny through to the main chamber, and put him on oxygen. He was only on O2 for a couple of minutes, and then stated to convulse, dropping his mask. Pat was running the chamber, and was aware of what had happened. He turned off the O2, and started a descent to 165 ft, which would give us a much longer therapeutic, without the benefit of oxygen, which would be poisonous at that depth. In the meantime, I was checking out Danny. He had no pulse, and wasn’t breathing. He was lying on the floor of the chamber, where I started giving him CPR and mouth to mouth. After a few minutes, he started breathing unaided, and I was able to stop the CPR. He was very confused as he regained consciousness, and wasn’t sure about what had happened. However, we were now on a table which required us to stay in the chamber for about 3 days. It was incredibly hot there, close to the equator, and the guys were trying to cool it down by running water over the chamber, but it was a hugely uncomfortable 3 days. Danny seemed to be more or less recovered by the time we arrived back at surface, but had to return to Singapore for another diving medical. No one knew what had caused the problem in the first place, and why he’d started convulsing on oxygen. Was he oxygen intolerant? Was the oxygen content good? Everything was checked out, he was given an O2 tolerance test at 60 ft in Singapore, with no problem. He passed his medical OK, the doctors could find nothing wrong with him, and no reason for the incident. As soon as we were out of the pot, I was relieved by the returning diver, and went off to spend my first leave in Bali.
© mick binns 2018