“I always wanted a job where I didn’t have to wear shoes,” quipped Johnny Johnson. John T. (Johnny) Johnson recently gave a delightfully entertaining presentation, “Exploring Ocean Depths: Past, Present, and Future“, to a SRO crowd at the Blount County Public Library. He is the co-founder of Oceaneering International, Inc., which had remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and crew members on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig at the time of the explosion.
Mr. Johnson is a UT graduate who grew up here in Maryville, where he spent countless hours swimming in the Alcoa pool, looking for loose change. Technically he retired in 2004 and lives in Townsend; but he still actively works with Oceaneering and continues to serve as Senior Vice-President, Board Member, Retired.
What started out as a hobby in his garage, has developed into an multi-million dollar global deepwater organization which also serves the defense and aerospace industries. Johnny and four other partners established World Wide Divers in 1964 in Louisiana with borrowed money, few assets, and big dreams. In 1969 World Wide Divers joined forces with Cal-Dive and Can Dive to form what is now Oceaneering International, Inc.
Oceaneering International, Inc., develops ROVs, mobile offshore production systems, engineering and project management, subsea intervention and installation services, robotics, and manned diving for deep sea exploration, vessel retrieval, and even outer space. Oceaneering employs approximately 7,900 people working out of 68 locations in 21 countries.
Oceaneering currently has 16 ROVs deployed at the spill, which were designed to support drilling operations; not repair unprecedented blowouts. It is a challenge working in such a freezing cold, dark, high-pressure environment miles below the surface of the ocean. Simple tasks that a human could do in seconds, like putting together a nut and bolt, might take an ROV hours in deep water.
There are so many unknown variables in such a frontier environment. The ROV robots are tethered to the boat by miles of “umbilical cord” cables which somewhat restrict their movements. And bringing them up to the ship and sending them back down can take hours. Under currents cause mudslides on the ocean floor, which in turn can break the oil rig platform. Mr. Johnson also stated that weather is a major concern, and when the weather gets rough, “it’s time for everybody to go to the house!”
Mr. Johnson referred to the BP oil spill as, “a royal mess,” but he believes that they should now, be able to capture and contain it.
Fun Facts: ROV’s (aka “fish”) cost $4-6 million each; weight about 8000 lbs.; lease for about $3000/day; are operated by 3 man crews.
For further information:
Oceaneering International & BP BP Gulf of Mexico Response Website Oceaneering FB page
Must See: Informative NBC Nightly News Video on Oceaneering, Inc. (shown @ BCPL presentation)
Note: This is the first of two articles on Mr. Johnson’s presentation & Oceaneering.