Portrait of a Clearance Diver Enrolled in the French Navy

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Bob Lataste agreed to tell us more about his unusual job. He obtained his high school diploma in mechanical engineering with honors in Bordeaux. Then he entered the Navy Clearance Diving Unit in Conflans Saint Honorine (78) where he has been trained for a year. (12 posts for 60 candidates a year)


What does it look like to be a clearance diver?

The clearance diver is first a versatile sailor. We neutralize explosive devices in terrestrial (landmines, unexploded bombs, shells, mortars, grenades, anti-tank mine …) and underwater (marine mines, torpedoes, anti-submarine grenades) according to our skill level.

We work only on the foreshore, that part of the beach covered by the sea at the highest tide and obviously in the sea In the region Manche North Sea where I work, on average, an explosive device is discovered every 2 days.

But we are the Swiss Army knives of the Navy. We are able to be deployed in the air, also by helicopter. We can do underwater works (with heavy helmet like in the movies) we also evaluate and look for wrecks for insurance or judicial inquiries. We are the only one able to dive up to 80m because police force divers are limited to 35m.

We also relocate black boxes and we conduct body research when needed.


What are the physical conditions required to be a clearance diver?

We must be in good health, keep fit and have a healthy lifestyle.

We have in our working time, 1 hour a day dedicated to physical fitness.

Bob Lataste, Riverboarding world champion

Are you deployed abroad?

Yes some clearance divers go on overseas operations but this is not very common. This only affects people who have a minimum experience of 10-12 years. Most of the time, they are called to make interventions on minefield or parcel bombs and for the reinforcement of the mine-clearing units of other armies.

How many women are practicing this profession?

Two women are clearance divers right now in the French navy.

What is the average salary?

At the beginning of his career, a clearance diver basic pay is around 1250€, he also earns a bonus of 250€ because he can be called at any time for a mission as well as a diving bonus of 8850€ a year. So, our salary is around 2250€ and 2500€ in an early career.

Up to what age can you do this job?

The oldest are approaching 55 years.

How difficult is this job?

We must learn to trust, the ability to keep his cool, but also to know and to listen to our body. Diving has to become a formality in order to concentrate on the mission, work and the implementation of explosives. Diving is therefore a vector.

Bob Lataste chose this profession out of passion for versatility and the maritime environment. He is also a river boarding world champion, he won the title in Indonesia in November 2013.


To know more about clearance diver, visit the French navy website: http://www.etremarin.fr/

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