University coaches 'urban' frogmen

Shanghai Jiao Tong University Underwater Engineering Institute is training 60 people to deal with urban water-related issues including pipeline overhaul and cleaning sludge.
Dong Jun / SHINE

A man trains to become an urban frogman at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. 

Shanghai Jiao Tong University Underwater Engineering Institute is training 60 people to deal with urban water-related issues including pipeline overhaul and cleaning sludge.

The course is the first professional and systematic training of its kind in China.

With the rapid development of urban infrastructure, the university’s diving training center would train workers from the municipal’s utility industries. But there was no professional course for underwater workers in urban areas.

The lack of training meant that the accident rates were high for the city frogmen.

Shi Lu, from the diving training center, said the urban waters were vastly different from the sea. Basically, Shi said, being a frogman in urban areas was a high-risk job.

“Divers in the city are rare. Shanghai currently has just 200 of them,” said Shi. “Most of them are experienced divers trained for engineering jobs in the sea.”

Bai Xiaogen has been a diver for 28 years. He said in the cities the buried pipelines carried dangers like poisonous gas and the possibility of explosion. In the sea, their greatest enemy was the unpredictable seafloor.

“Two thirds of the year I was out in the sea. Once I stayed under water for eight hours,” said Bai, who just joined the center as an instructor.

But few people are willing to take up the job in the cities, Bai said.

“Most of the work in urban areas involve sewage and mud,” Bai said. “Sometimes you have to put on a suit that weighs more than 60 kilograms under water.”

On the first day of the new course yesterday, Bai and another coach demonstrated how frogmen cope with water.

Shen Zhongtao from Jiao Tong University said the job required cooperation both under water and on land.

“There are four cables connected to the frogman’s suit,” said Shen. “They provide oxygen, communication, and monitor the depth and send back motions from deep.”


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