Shanghai's salvage authority is developing saturation diving technology to enable divers to work at a depth of 500 meters — deeper than ever before for Chinese divers.
Saturation diving technology enables human beings to withstand high water pressure to stay underwater for longer and at a deeper sea level.
The technology is crucial in China's deep-sea exploration, rescue operations and engineering construction at the bottom of the sea, said Jin Feng, the head of the diving division of Shanghai Salvage Company under the Ministry of Transport.
China's current deepest saturation dive record is 300 meters. The United States and France are the global leaders in saturation diving technology whose divers can descend more than 500 meters. "The depth of saturation diving also symbolizes the national power of China," Jin, a deputy to the National People's Congress, told Shanghai Daily on the sidelines of the annual legislative session.
The city government has set up a research base on Hengsha Island at the mouth of Yangtze River, for the company to achieve the goal, Jin said.
His team has begun working on diving facilities, such as the diving bell, living chamber and escape vessel.
Researchers were carrying out experiments in the base, while the divers were being trained in maneuvers and various missions at sea, Jin said.
Shanghai Salvage now has about 2,000 staff, including 800 divers and other technicians. Its largest crane barge has a lifting capacity of 2,500 tons, and is mainly used for salvage, wreck removal, offshore projects and various underwater services. Divers needed to reach deeper depths to help with the crane's operation, Jin said.
Since its establishment in the 1950s, the company said it had completed more than 2,000 salvage cases, over 1,000 wreck removal cases, saved some 20,000 lives and removed more than 20,000 tons of underwater oil pollution.
Previously, China's deep-sea operations had to rely on foreign salvage companies.
China hired foreign divers to take part in its oilfield development in the South China Sea, Jin said.
Jin, in his role as a NPC deputy, has asked for more government support that includes financial assistance and incentives to the staff, many of whom later resigned due to the work involving long-time operational duties at sea and having to undergo intensive training and operations.