UNDERWATER Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Jim Elliott, Chief Operating Officer Teichman Group, LLC.
UNDERWATER MAGAZINE: How did you get involved in commercial diving?
I started commercial diving in the late 1980s doing salvage and ship husbandry work and continued through the 1990s as a project manager and diver on environmental projects at an engineering firm, including working under contract on Coast Guard environmental response operations.
I am currently the Chief Operating Officer of the Teichman Group of Companies, focused on managing worldwide salvage, marine firefighting, heavy lift, environmental response and commercial diving operations. Our commercial diving company, T&T Subsea, performs marine salvage, ship husbandry, contaminated water, and classification society in-water survey projects.
UM: How have you been involved with ADCI?
I have been involved with the ADCI since the 1990s when I served as a U.S. Coast Guard liaison officer to the organization. Since working with the ADCI, I have always had a great respect for the organization’s mission, standards and leadership. For example, in 2003, I worked with the ADCI, including former East Coast Chapter Chair, Tom Eason, to help update the Coast Guard’s Diving Manual and guidance for marine inspectors overseeing commercial diving operations and casualty investigations. Managing Coast Guard response operations, I would always recommend and select ADCI companies to perform needed salvage and disaster response operations.
After retiring from the Coast Guard, I have worked with the ADCI to ensure our company’s diving program and personnel consistently meet ADCI standards, including being one of the first companies to complete the new ADCI audit program. Over the past several years, I had the opportunity to work my way up to serve as President of the American Salvage Association (ASA). In this capacity, I helped develop a Memorandum of Agreement between the ASA and ADCI to help advance commercial diver safety in the salvage industry. Earlier this year, it was a great honor to be selected to serve on the ADCI Board of Directors and to be inducted into the Commercial Diving Hall of Fame.
UM: What has been the most rewarding part of your career in the underwater industry?
I enjoy working with people and teams who can effectively and pragmatically manage risk to solve complex problems. Some recent examples include conducting hot-tap operations on sunken ships to minimize environmental impacts and performing underwater rigging and welding during demanding salvage operations. Like most people who get involved in the industry, I just enjoy working outside and on the water, and, even after diving over 30 years, I still look forward to performing underwater projects. With this said, the most rewarding part of my career has been helping protect and save lives, whether managing search and rescue operations in the Coast Guard or helping to promote diver safety through designing safe operations or helping advance industry standards.
UM: What issues are most prevalent in the industry now?
I believe the driving issues in the industry continue to be promoting safe, high quality and profitable underwater work. The ADCI is a driving force in the diving industry, advancing safety standards well beyond the antiquated Coast Guard and OSHA standards that unfortunately have not kept pace with operational and technological advances. I have a great deal of respect for Phil Newsum, ADCI’s Executive Director. Under his leadership, the ADCI has worked to build productive partnerships with fellow industry organizations, expanded worldwide ADCI membership and advanced the alignment of U.S. and international diving standards. In regards to additional issues that the ADCI can tackle, I would like to see continued focus on diving issues not previously addressed such as the recent publication of the ship husbandry guidelines and perhaps working with the maritime industry to require ADCI membership and audits as part of the contracting process to increase membership value.
UM: Where will the industry be in 5 years? In light of recent developments from COVID-19, how will this impact commercial diving in the coming years?
Despite the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and recent oil price fluctuations negatively impacting the economy, commercial divers will continue to be in demand. In the wake of the pandemic outbreak, while most U.S. workers were ordered to stay at home, professional mariners, including commercial divers were designated as “essential critical infrastructure workers” by the Department of Homeland Security to ensure the continuity of ports, waterways and international shipping. Our company divers, for example, continued to respond to marine emergencies, ship husbandry and wreck removal operations. This is an indicator that despite global events, there is still a vital need for commercial diving services.