Release date: 18 July 2019
Under the surface with Ralph Addison
The latest edition of James Fisher and Sons newsletter Pelican, includes an interview with Ralph Addison who is one of JFD’s submarine rescue pilots responsible for supporting trials and training for the prestigious Indian Navy contract.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I grew up near Glasgow and joined the army at 17, serving for five years in the Army Air Corps as an avionics technician, serving two tours in Afghanistan. My school teachers said I’d regret missing out on university but I was really lucky to get to work on Apache helicopters and I knew I wanted to learn to pilot sophisticated kit like that.
How did you come to join the James Fisher group?
I left the army in 2007 and met up with the James Fisher team at a recruitment drive. I was fascinated by ROVs and keen to train as a pilot/technician so I was thrilled to land a job as a sub-electrical engineer with what was James Fisher Rumic at the time - the submarine rescue element now forming part of JFD. The team was operating trials for the UK’s submarine rescue system in preparation for its take over by NATO. This was where I began my pilot training.
The team was also working on new submarine rescue systems for Singapore and Korea at the time and I learned a great deal as they were being put together – I was lucky enough to be involved in the first sea trials on both systems.
In 2009 I was part of a small team sent out to Australia to support the Royal Australian Navy with their submarine rescue system. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to get up to speed with the system and to continue my pilot training.
In 2012 I returned to the UK to join the NATO submarine rescue system and in 2015 I switched to working as a freelance contractor. As well as working on JFD projects, I spent quite a bit of time on a vessel called Alucia which has two 1000m rated submersibles. These were chartered by the National Geographic programme, Years of Living Dangerously and the BBC’s Blue Planet series.
Quite a bit of my work ended up on film and you can catch me on camera in the ‘behind the scenes’ clip for the Blue Planet episode in Antarctica about life under the ice. I’m piloting the sub that sprang a leak!
Tell us a bit about your job?
In 2017 I returned to full time work with JFD as operations lead for the Indian Navy contract. This put me in charge of supporting the two deep search and rescue vehicles (DSRVs) JFD has supplied, sea acceptance trials and conducting pilot and rescue chamber operator training courses both in the UK and India. It’s been quite a challenge!
Once the second system is online I am joining JFD’s global operations team supporting the needs of the operational systems for NATO, Singapore, Australia and the new Indian Navy systems too.
This means I will be part of a specialised JFD team on standby, seven days a week, 365 days a year, ready to support any submarine rescue incidents globally.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love the fact that I get to travel – and dive - all over the world. No two dives are ever the same, and so much of the seabed has never been explored. It is challenging, and there are sacrifices (my children are very young and it’s tough spending so much time away from them) but I feel very lucky to have such an exciting and varied job.
What does the future hold?
The team is busy working on the new DSRV for the Korean Navy, which is bespoke to the customer’s specific launch requirements and I’m looking forward to working with them again!
Watch a clip of some of the ROV operations Ralph was involved in for Blue Planet II:
- The Blue Planet II episode 'The Deep' is available to watch on BBC IPlayer. Watch Ralph's expertise and professionalism in action ~50 minutes in!
- Read the BBC Earth blog on the historic 1,000m ROV dive below the Antarctic ice