Welding, cutting, demolition and concreting: the tasks he carries out are the same as on a regular civil engineering site, except he and his team work several metres underwater in almost complete darkness. After falling in love with diving when he was a teenager, Thomas worked as an optician for a decade before turning his passion into a career. Exacting standards, endurance, discipline, team spirit: those are the values that he appreciates most in this occupation that he sees as a perfect fit for a man with a free spirit.
Biography,Thomas Bogrand-Le Cozic
1998 Started diving
2003 Earned a French baccalaureate in science
2005 Earned a 2-year certificate (BTS) in optometry
2015 Completed a skills assessment and joined the Centre d’Activité de Plongée de Trébeurden, one of the 3 commercial diving training centres in France
2016 Obtained official certification as a commercial diver specialising in civil engineering projects, accredited for all types of work at depths of up to 50 metres
2018 Joinedthe Saint-Brieuc branch of VINCI Construction Maritime et Fluvial as a commercial diver specialising in civil engineering projects
“A perfect fit for a man with a free spirit”.
Q1/How is working underwater different?
In most of the work we do, good manual dexterity is all that is required. But a good diver is above all someone who can see underwater, because contrary to what you might think, visibility is often close to zero. It is called working in “black water”. It is important be able to control yourself in all circumstances and to follow rules, diving safety standards and instructions to the letter. Finally, working underwater also means enjoying being part of a team, since we always work in teams of at least 3 people.
Q2/Is there a project that stands out in your mind?
One of the projects of which I am most proud is the refurbishment of slipway for the Société nationale de sauvetage en mer (SNSM) at Pors Kamor in Ploumanach. It is one of the most beautiful places in Brittany in France, and a gorgeous diving spot. That’s where I started diving as a teenager and also where I got married. There is a public slipway where the SNSM keeps its all-weather lifeboat. This is my first large project and we did a lot of work there: demolition, lifting, reinforcement, concreting work, etc. People say that you remember your first worksite all your life, and this one has certainly left its mark on me!
Q3/Do you have a message for those who dream of following in your footsteps?
First of all, you need to be aware that commercial diving is not a hobby, but a demanding profession! It’s very physical, there are risks, and therefore it is crucial to observe the rules. You don’t get to choose your dives; your mission is to carry out an assignment and your surface-supplied diving system is only a mean of getting to your workstation. It takes a long time and you have to spend many hours at depth, in the dark and the cold, before you can be qualified for the job.
But it is an extraordinary, exciting and varied job, where you feel free.
In 3 words
I enjoy assembling, taking apart, building, repairing and using a variety of tools. I also like adapting to different situations. Unplanned jobs energise me. Once the day is over, I totally forget about the complications we ran into and how tired I might feel.
Because my assignments are so varied, I learn a lot every day, and I love getting to discover very unique places.
My greatest source of pride is that I enjoy my job. And I love talking about it even more. My wife and children like to listen to me talking about my assignments and they take a real interest in this little-known job. When you get out of the water, you are often really tired, but you get huge satisfaction out of a job well done. I am proud to be part of this small community of underwater workers.
Working as a team
According to the Labour Code, divers work in teams of three, and clear roles are assigned to each member.
The hyperbaric operations manager. As dive supervisor, they are responsible for the overall diving operation (checking the diver’s air supply and diving conditions) and stay in constant contact with the diver working underwater.
The diver performs specific tasks below the waterline.
The third crew member is the standby diver; they are at the surface and are prepared to assist the primary diver at any moment should the latter run into trouble.
In Thomas’ photo album
1/ Before each dive, I prepare my equipment and tools and don my gear. Then, the standby diver, also called diver tender, helps me get set up, and we do our pre-dive checks (we test the emergency air supply, communication system…). My helmet is secured only once we have run through the checklist and we have checked that the main air supply is functioning properly. Only then do I get into the water.
2/ Dive time is limited to 3 hours per day (including decompression stops), spread over one or two dives. In specific situations, where our dives are tide- and current-dependent, we limit our time underwater in order to ensure we are always working safely. This means two shorter dives, each of them being timed with the tide. However, the end of a dive does not mean the day is over! We take turns going underwater and being standby diver.
3/ All the work that can be done on land can also be done underwater, except operations take twice as long… like here in the port of La Rochelle, for the installation of new berthing fender panels.
4/ When you get out of the water, you are often really tired, but get huge satisfaction from a job well done. I am proud to be part of this small community of underwater workers.
Are you cut out for this job?
Are you adaptable?
Jobs are extremely varied and divers must constantly adapt, be it to the task at hand or because of a mechanical problem. Having a whole range of skills is essential.
Are you good at handling stress?
When working underwater, you need to be able to control your nerves in all circumstances and follow rules, diving safety standards and instructions to the letter. You also need to be able to take initiative and swift and efficient action in emergency situations.
Are you athletic and disciplined?
Diving is very physical, there are risks, and therefore it is crucial to observe the rules. You don’t get to choose your dives; your mission is to carry out an assignment.