HOUSTON A Houston-based international company is doing a lot of the heavy lifting to contain the oil spill in the Gulf.

Oceaneering, headquartered on FM 529, is the world s largest operator of Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles (ROVs). Its vessel, the Ocean Intervention III, is one of six vessels on the scene of the spill, each tethered to two ROVs. The ships may also be cabled to generators, tools and more underwater equipment.

You ve got all these things hanging in the water. You ve got shears, you ve got ROVs. You ve got to be sure all these things don t get wrapped up in each other, explained Oceaneering Senior Vice President of Worldwide ROVs Kevin Kerins.

So turning a ship means everything needs to be reeled back onboard first. Clearly, bad weather, such as a hurricane, stops everything.

At the surface, on a ship or rig, pilots use joysticks and video screens to operate the equipment remotely. Some have thousands of hours of experience. Still, it s tricky to maneuver shears or a saw blade thousands of feet down.

Kerins has been an ROV pilot.

Sometimes you ll see it jump out and they have to place the blade back in the same cut. At the same time it s throwing up the debris, he said.

Oceaneering is part of BP s incident command center in Houston, which is calling the overall shots. At sea, multiple crews work around the clock, in 12-hour shifts. Fatigue can be a factor.

Ultimately there s going to be one guy who s a hot-shot pilot. He s very good and they re going to want him on the stick all the time, he said.

To help fight fatigue, Oceaneering is launchingnew 3-D HD cameras to help pilots see and work better. They have been under development in the past year and are ready for field testing.

It would be like watching Avatar underwater with a chop saw in your hand, Kerins joked.

Work is also under way on Force Feedback. The joystick would push back when its underwater equipment encounters pressure.

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