Don Ockrassa, Port Diver
Below the Surface
I am often asked, “How does someone become a professional diver?
What kind of training is required, and how long does it take?”
In my case I received my diving training while serving in the U.S. Navy. During those 22 years of active duty, I participated in deep diving systems and submarine rescue. After completing my service, I joined the Port in 1998 as a commercially trained diver. I went through the Port’s Vision 2000 construction of the Inner Harbor, which gave me a solid blueprint of how things are organized and assembled here. Our dive team is tasked with finding and repairing damage to Port infrastructure. These repairs range from small to large fixes depending upon the circumstances. Much of our work is ongoing maintenance like routine examination of the wooden piles that support the airport approach lights or re-installing worn-out ship fenders. I have recovered boats (when the Port ran the marinas), crawled up drain pipes (rescuing a Roto Rooter robot), and helped pull pickup trucks from the water.
The active lifespan for most divers is relatively short given the physical demands of the job. I have been fortunate in beating those odds, and have enjoyed more than 35 years under water! The variety of challenges and the dedication of Port leadership and staff combine to make this work tremendously satisfying.