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Keeping Up With The Port Of Long Beach

For Nathan Shaw, dive supervisor for the Port of Long Beach, every day on the job is different, thanks to changing water conditions and an ever-growing list of below-water tasks. “We maintain all the subsea infrastructure for the port,” Shaw, who has worked as a diver for the port for nearly 10 years, said. The seven-person dive team is responsible for maintaining a myriad of infrastructure, including piers, fire boats, bridges, docks and more. “One of the bigger challenges we face is visibility,” Shaw said, explaining that the silt in the harbor impairs visibility when disturbed. “If we can see our hands it’s a really good day. . . . So being able to complete a task when you can’t see anything is probably one of the more challenging aspects of the job.” The team, which used to work for the port on a contract basis but is now integrated into port staff, is also on call for emergencies. The divers operate from a Vietnam War-era Army vessel with a crane and a movable bow ramp that enables them to recover objects from the water. In one instance, the team was called out to retrieve the wreckage of a plane that had crashed in the harbor, Shaw recalled. The team also regularly finds and removes a variety of debris from the port’s waters. Near the old Navy shipyard, Shaw once found thousands of plates he suspects were tossed overboard by a Navy private who didn’t want to do the dishes. “I like it a lot,” Shaw said of his job. “They have been really good to me and I have no intention of going anywhere else.”

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