The Magazine for Underwater Professionals
Supervisors have FULL responsibility
So at last justice is to be done, and some of those involved may at last get some level of closure. The latest news flashes suggest that the captain of the ill-fated cruise ship Costa Concordia, after numerous appeals, is set to receive a 16-year jail sentence for his part in the final moments of the sad and undignified end of an immense vessel and the most unfortunate 33 passengers who lost their lives in the event. Our thoughts are with those who are still dealing with the fallout from that day in January 2012.
So what’s the connection to commercial diving? By April 2014 there had been 15,000 separate dive excursions required to progress the recovery operation, and there were many more that occurred after this date. The complex and massive underwater salvage work that resulted from the incident was very much a multi-national activity, and there was a very strong British contingent involved. Five years on from the event, most of the big work has long been completed, the recycling of the hull is all but complete, and some of the less dramatic elements continue to be dealt with at the site. But it does show that it is possible, even on the most complex tasks, to follow the rules and get things done safely.
Whilst it might be a dramatic way to make the point, it just goes to show that a momentary loss of attention can be very costly. Acknowledged, it is a separate scale, but just like the responsibility of the ship’s captain, every time the appointed diving supervisor starts the dive, he or she takes on the FULL responsibility for what happens on that work site for the duration of the operation.
Sadly, the point about how important the role of the supervisor is still does not seem to have got through to some who take on the task. Diving does NOT have to be inherently dangerous; in fact, with the appropriate level of preparation and planning, suitably competent personnel – including the supervisor – along with the required equipment spread, there is little difference between the requirements for carrying out diving and many other maintenance or construction related tasks. It only becomes more hazardous when ill prepared and inadequately briefed personnel attempt to do things that are beyond their area of expertise.
Inland/inshore diving has come along way since 1997. The level of ability and professionalism amongst diving contractors is now significantly better than it was in the past. There are now very few engineering or maintenance tasks that can be carried out above the surface that cannot be done to a similar standard below the surface.
Most of the time clients or their designated representatives struggle to see the finish achieved on some underwater tasks, due mainly to low visibility. Compared to those of the past, today’s underwater camera systems are much better and more common, but most are still limited when visibility is poor.
This is one of the main reasons that every year at the Seawork Exhibition, to be held in Southampton in mid June, that the Association coordinates the range of displays that occur in the dive tank. It is not often that, whilst browsing around various exhibition stands, you get the opportunity to linger and watch commercial divers demonstrate their range of skills by carrying out a variety of assembly, repair and recovery tasks in a clear-water tank with viewing windows on three sides.
Seawork is always worth a visit. Now in its 20th year, the event is the largest multi-scope commercial marine exhibition held in the UK and is a great opportunity to not only watch divers at work, but also catch up on new developments in many other marine related areas.
Roger O'Kane, ADC Secretary