Dive School Profile: The Ocean Corporation

diving school profile

The Ocean Corporation (TOC) in Houston was founded in 1969 and has been an innovator in diving training since that time. It was the first commercial diving school in the U.S. to introduce, into its core curriculum, training for bell diving (1972); for underwater (WET) welding and cutting (1979); and for underwater nondestructive testing (1980). Its staff and/or graduates have consulted with NASA on the design and development of equipment for future space missions, and were the first to make a subsea cut using the SEAStallion diamond wire cutting machine.

Under the direction of John Wood, owner and president, TOC has been active in the international diving industry as well. Ocean Corporation was the first and is the only commercial diving training program in the U.S. to offer certification from the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA).

At first, TOC focused solely on commercial diving/underwater welding. In 2002, however, the school added non-destructive testing (NDT) as a separate, distinct program. Between the two programs, TOC now has graduated more than 15,000 people since it opened.

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Comprehensive training

TOC’s diver training program runs for 7½ months. Classes begin every five weeks, and are usually capped at 24 students.

During the initial training, students spend most of their time in the classroom. The first section of the curriculum covers non-destructive testing, which provides diving students the opportunity to earn two NDT certifications. It also gives them a look at an alternative career possibility if they find they don’t like diving, said Richard Johnston, instructor and marketing. The next sections cover the physics of diving and the basics of diver tending, where they learn about equipment and practice getting in and out of the water.

“From there we go to Galveston for a week in open water,” said Johnston. Students practice skills like searching and rigging in the murky waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

For the second half of their training, the students return to TOC’s 4.2-acre campus. They work on underwater projects in one of the six tanks, which range from 8 feet to 24 feet deep. During this time, they learn about underwater welding and cutting/burning, oil-rig/platform and support equipment installation and inspection, and repair and salvage.

The Ocean Corporation’s experienced instructors, who have diverse backgrounds in diving, simulate the situations the students will face when they’re out working in the industry. “For example, when a diver comes up, he has to give a report to the next diver and then get that diver dressed and in the water within four minutes,” said Johnston.

diving school profile

Prepared for emergencies

The Ocean Corporation founded the National Association of Diver Medical Technicians (NADMT) in 1982. The school continues to emphasizes diver safety and first aid, and continually finds ways to improve this training.

“We used to run drills where we had an unresponsive diver. So they’d pull a diver out of the water and that would be the end of the drill,” said Johnston. They expected the diver medic to take over from there. But TOC didn’t think that was good enough. What if the diver medic was the one who was injured, or was not immediately available?

“We’ve added what we call a diver first responder course. We have advanced first aid CPR, and we go through the whole process of putting on a tourniquet, putting on a c spine collar, immobilization, putting in an IV – pretty much everything a diver medic would do,” Johnston explained. “We will even have them put the tourniquet on underwater.”

The goal is to have an injured diver out of their equipment and given any necessary first aid (taking vitals, applying a tourniquet, giving oxygen, etc.) within two and a half minutes. That enables the divers to get the injured person into the decompression chamber within the necessary time limit.

Johnston said that The Ocean Corporation recently submitted the information about this training to the ADCI medical committee. It hopes the ADCI will approve the curriculum as the basis for a new diver first responder standard and certification.

diving school profile

Multiple career options

The Ocean Corporation’s website includes a list of more than 30 careers that require divers. To ensure they’re prepared for whatever diving job they want, TOC’s program covers a diverse range of topics, including:

  • Offshore oilfield diving operations
  • Inland diving operations
  • Surface and underwater welding and cutting
  • Mixed-gas and lock-out diving
  • Recompression chamber operations
  • Nuclear/contaminated environment diving
  • Rigging certification
  • Hazardous environment intervention
  • Underwater nondestructive testing

The school also offers a two-day introduction to the operation of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

TOC’s diving students come from the military, right out of high school, or are working adults who just want a change. Some have worked in welding and decided they want to work on that trade underwater. Others have been incarcerated and are looking for a new start; they work hard and do very well, Johnston said. The school’s financial aid staff can help students identify different sources of funding for which they might qualify, including federal grants and loans, GI benefits and state programs.

While TOC does not offer housing, it does have arrangements with some apartments and extended stay hotels in the area. Some students stay in nearby campgrounds.

TOC offers job placement for life, and has a placement rate of about 90%. Many graduates are diving in the Gulf of Mexico, but others are working in inland and offshore locations throughout the United States and in other countries as well.

“The Ocean Corp is an excellent choice for students who want to work in the fast-paced field of commercial diving,” said Johnston. “We’ve been in business for more than 50 years, and we are established and respected in the industry.”

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Certifications & Certificates:

  • First Aid/CPR/AED card
  • UDT diploma
  • Hazmat Certificate
  • ACDE card
  • IMCA (most field requirements)
  • DAN card
  • Kirby Morgan card
  • Rigging card
  • Gorski certificate
  • AWS welding certs in 1F, 2F, 3F, 4F in welding and a 2F and 4F in underwater welding (must pass a welding test)