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Diving power at a power station

Early in the eighties the number of breakdowns and disasters in power stations in the GDRwas rapidly increasing due to the minimal investment and wear and tear. Mostly it took too long to bring in professional divers from the Berlin area or even from the Baltic Coast. Thus, more and more good sports divers from clubs or the Society for Sport and Technology (GST) were charged with highly risky repair jobs. A small group of people thus gained unusual special knowledge under extreme risks.

The energy providers of the GDR wanted to put a stop to this semi-legal situation and encouraged the education of a group of professional divers as fully-employed divers of the energy economy.

This diving group was founded in November 1986. The six divers at the time were all employees of the VEB Power Station in Boxberg and thus felt “at home” in many of the power stations in the southern part of what is today the new federal counties. In the beginning, the diving group worked under unimaginable technical conditions, i.e. with wet diving suits, self-made radio system and unsuitable vehicles. The divers had to wait two years under the GDR-regime before the “business plan” was approved and the first dry diving suits and full face-masks could be utilized.

Today’s owner and founder of Leunert’s Industrial Diving company became a sports diver with the GST as early as 1977, perfected his diving knowledge as a parachutist and successfully completed his first professional diving examination in 1986 before the Central Diving Commission of the Marine Navigation Office of the GDR.

Karsten Leunert belongs to the founding members of the power station diving group. In 1990 the situation changed considerably. The United Energy Works AG (VEAG) disbanded all the sub-energy works which existed during the GDR-regime and privatized them, including the divers. In the autumn of 1990 there were only two men left from the old power station diving group – Karsten Leunert and Gerd Wuttke. Karsten Leunert took the plunge into self-employment, moved the company into Jahnstraße in Weißwasser and, along with a growing volume of orders, invested in modern technology. In the meantime – with the exception of the “Nostalgic L60 Truck” – all the equipment and vehicles are the latest in technological development. The new plot for the company was found and bought and the necessary buildings erected.

The early days were tough as the call for power station diving was diminishing step by step. More and more brown coal power stations were being closed down or generally outdated. But Leunert’s company managed successfully to specialize more and more in dam and constructional diving, underwater concreting, welding, mantling and blasting. The call for divers to perform high-pressure jet cleaning services became more frequent. The company’s catchment areas today are in particular the dams, inner harbours and large construction sites in the four most southern new federal counties and Berlin.

Leunert’s company continued to grow year by year and now has 16 fully-employed divers, two office staff and of course the boss. The twentieth member of the company is Arco, the Rottweiler, who has taken over the status of “unwanted guest” by demanding approximately 1,5 kilograms of dog food per day! For larger construction jobs up to 33 professional divers can be found with the help of other self-employed divers. Leunert’s diving company is also a training establishment and at the moment is training four new young divers. The company’s equipment is unusually extensive with its own hauling truck (up to 20 tons), three lorries, cases and containers, various high-pressure jet rinsing machines (300 to 2400 bar), pontoons up to 90 tons load capacity, a six-man treatment pressure chamber with medication sluice and several boats. When Leunert’s company moves in with its special trucks and sets up a construction site within minutes, their competitors often grab a camera! It is Karsten Leunert’s company philosophy to begin without delay on the job at hand using his own cranes, heavy trucks and perfectly set-up containers.

This way, there is no time-consuming shifting and moving due to trucks that are too light or too small. Another foothold is the video filming, which Leunert’s can edit in their own studio and deliver to any client on demand. Needless to say, detailed photos can also be printed from these videos. Some of the interesting contracts for Leunert’s sub-services include work on Potsdamer Platz and the Lehrter City Railway Station in Berlin as well as work on the foundation of the Bautzener autobahn bridge and the foundation and shifting of the Elb bridge in Meissen. Leunert’s are also well-known in their branch for their ability to perform tasks professionally at great depths. In Berlin for instance, the start and finishing shafts of tunneling was concreted by Leunert’s divers at a water level of 41 metres. One particular job was the inspection of 56 metre deep floating shafts of the ship elevating works at Rothensee near Magdeburg. A diver had to be on hand here as the working depth was over 50 metres.

Leunert’s company is currently the only German company working alongside colleagues from Italy, Holland and England on the site of the Lehrter Railway Station in Berlin. Karsten Leunert considers the pressure of costs, which forces some companies to forego supplying their own pressure chambers when preparing their bids, to be false economy. Furthermore, he would rather provide these free of charge for the safety of his own men.

With an immeasurable amount of work, Karsten Leunert has succeeded within approximately eight years to put Leunert’s Industrial Diving Company into the top ten largest diving companies in the Federal Republic of Germany.

This is an extract from The Professional Diver (Der Profitaucher)