The Magazine for Underwater Professionals

May/Jun 2015


Underwater Canada

The Canadian Underwater Conference 2015 was held in Victoria, British Columbia. Michael Cocks reports

Fairmont Empress Hotel. Photo: Brandon Godfrey

I always enjoy attending the Canadian Underwater Conference, which provides an opportunity to meet old friends and learn more about the underwater world. This year it was held in the impressive 100-year-old Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. The wide range of events helped take my mind off the looming British General Election and the hotel was one of the best I have ever stayed in.


As always, the conference was well organised by David Parkes and the team from the Diver Certification Board of Canada (DCBC). The winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award this year was Steve Duffy, a former Canadian clearance diver who has worked for the last 31 years with the Worker’s Compensation Board of British Columbia.


I was also pleased to meet again another former naval clearance diver, this time from the British Navy, Jonathan Chapple. Jonathan is the current chairman of the DCBC and is now working for Aqua Lung, USA, which also employs Leszek Gorski, whom I last met in Poland. Jane Bugler of the International Marine Contractors Association was attending the conference for the last time before retiring. There was wide range of exhibitors and more than 20 interesting talks to hear.

  • Award winner Steve Duffy (left). Photo: Doug Elsey/

I always take pride on such visits to contrast the UK diving safety record with that of other countries. Canada is probably a safer place in which to dive than America, where it is still hard to get an accurate figure of the number of commercial divers killed, but it is not good that diving regulations and their enforcement in Canada vary from province to province. I was also disappointed that at one session strong opposition was expressed against following the British decision to increase the size of a dive team to five.


I have long despaired at the lack of support from my parent union, Unite, for my attempts to recruit divers into the Professional Divers Association. It was therefore good to meet Darrell Hawk from the Pile Drivers, Divers, Bridge, Dock and Wharf Builders Union of British Columbia. He, like his opposite number in Pennsylvania, USA, David Roncinske, whom I met in 2013, encourages the further training of qualified divers and helps them get jobs. He told me the new training centre for divers in Las Vegas, USA, has just opened.


It was good to hear, via video link, from Rob Gatt of the Australian Diver Accreditation Scheme about the international changes made by the International Diving Regulators and Certifiers Forum (IDRCF) in the training of saturation divers, particularly the increased number of air dives required before joining a course. It was also made clear that all dives must be actual ones, and not simulated. It was also interesting to hear once more from Sherri Ferguson of British Columbia-based Simon Fraser University about her experiments on divers’ heart functions; she confirmed that there are no occupational medical requirements for recreational instructors. There was also an interesting lecture on the extensive training of Canadian clearance divers by Wade Smith.



Following on from a visit to the Divers Institute of Technology (DIT) in Seattle, USA, where I learned that DIT will begin intensive ROV courses later this year, it was informative to hear from Dwight Howse of the Marine Institute of Memorial University, Canada, about the two-year course the Marine Institute runs for ROV workers; he made it clear that there is likely to be a huge increase in demand for them. It was also good to hear about the excellent work and subsequent success in righting the Costa Concordia by Titan Marine, USA.


As always, it was very informative to hear from Phil Nuyten about further progress with his one-atmosphere diving suits; he has had an amazing career in the commercial diving industry, and I greatly appreciated being a fellow recipient of the Society for Underwater Technology Houlder Cup. I still consider myself rather an amateur in the commercial diving world and have a great deal more to learn, but it is good to travel overseas and as always at these Canadian conferences, some of my views were applauded. As always, the conference proved to be a very good networking venue.


Next year’s conference, to be held 3-5 April 2016, will mark a return to Halifax in Nova Scotia.

  • Packing a punch. The EXOSUIT atmospheric diving system from Canada-based Nuyten Research. Photo: Doug Elsey/





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