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Preventing Underwater Ship Husbandry Diving Fatalities

The number of fatalities and serious injuries suffered by divers conducting ship inspections and other underwater ship husbandry work is of real concern to the commercial diving industry.  Such incidents  continue to happen, often due to a lack of awareness of the risks involved and the absence of suitable management control processes.  Although IMCA’s focus is on offshore diving, IMCA member companies and their staff do have occasional involvement in ship husbandry activities.

Unless suitable measures are put in place to safeguard divers engaged in underwater ship husbandry activities, very serious accidents will inevitably occur.  Across the world a steady stream of commercial divers continue to suffer severe or fatal injuries when they come into contact with live underwater fittings on vessels (for example, sea chests, rotating shafts, propellers etc.) or when they encounter strong differential pressure suction forces associated with vessel hull leaks.  The truth is, this dreadful toll is completely unnecessary and entirely preventable.

IMCA is part of an industry coalition called the International Diving Industry Forum (IDIF).  This forum comprises the energy diving industry’s leading trade associations – the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP), representing oil companies; the Association of Diving Contractors International (ADCI), representing inshore diving contractors; and IMCA, representing offshore diving contractors.  IDIF members are jointly campaigning to raise awareness of the practical dangers of shallow water diving on ships in ports, harbours, and anchorages.  In view of this, with assistance from other IDIF members, the ADCI has developed a very practical guidance document entitled, “Underwater Ship Husbandry (UWSH) for Ocean-Going Ships”, which is attached.  The guidance seeks to promote best practice in the management of ship husbandry diving operations to help save lives.

The IDIF and its members, including IMCA, consider it essential that shipboard management everywhere is made aware of the ADCI UWSH guidance document and are able to access it easily.  The aim is for the risk control measures described in the guidance to be implemented whenever and wherever underwater ship husbandry diving operations take place.  IMCA works closely with ADCI through the International Diving Industry Forum and is pleased to promote awareness and adoption of this guidance.

Your assistance in promoting the document within the stakeholder community of your organisation would be much appreciated.

Additional Reading

The following material is essential reading/watching for anyone involved with underwater ship husbandry diving work:

  1. Guidance for the selection of diving contractors to undertake underwater ship husbandry (IMCA M 210), International Marine Contractors Association – Contains valuable guidance on how to engage competent diving contractors for ship husbandry work.
  2. Diving From, On or in Close Proximity to Merchant Vessels- Protocol for Isolating Machinery Systems, Association of Diving Contractors (ADC) Guidance Procedure ADC-GP-001.  The most useful industry guidance available on vessel isolation for ship diving operations.
  3. Differential pressure hazards in diving HSE Diving Information Sheet No 13.
  4. Differential pressure hazards in diving HSE Research Report 761.
  5. The Hazards of Working in “Delta P” Work Environments (video/CD Rom), Association of Diving Contractors International (ADCI).
IMCA Contact

Bryan McGlinchy
Diving Manager

IMCA’s store terms and conditions ( apply to all downloads from IMCA’s website, including this document.

IMCA makes every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the documents it publishes, but IMCA shall not be liable for any guidance and/or recommendation and/or statement herein contained. The information contained in this document does not fulfil or replace any individual’s or Member's legal, regulatory or other duties or obligations in respect of their operations. Individuals and Members remain solely responsible for the safe, lawful and proper conduct of their operations.