IMCA’s ‘DESIGN for Surface Orientated (Air) Diving Systems’ revised

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‘DESIGN for Surface Orientated (Air) Diving Systems’ has been revised and updated by the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) to incorporate equipment improvements and changed operating practices since its first publication in 2000. The format has also been changed slightly to improve ease of use and provide better referencing.

As IMCA’s Technical Director, Jane Bugler explains:”DESIGN of course stands for Diving Equipment Systems Inspection Guidance Note’. Known globally by its reference number IMCA D 023, this guidance, addresses various aspects of a surface orientated diving system as utilised within the offshore diving industry and aims to provide a comprehensive reference source addressing the philosophy of what equipment and layout is required for a safe diving operation, plus the examination, test and certification requirements necessary to meet agreed industry practice.”

The revised publication is intended to be used in conjunction with IMCA D 018 – ‘Code of practice on the initial and periodic examination, testing and certification of diving plant and equipment’. Cross-references to this Code are provided where appropriate. In addition to updating IMCA D 023, IMCA has recently reviewed and prepared a revised draft text for D 018 which has now been sent out for industry wide consultation.

The information in the guidance is presented in the form of detail sheets, each of which specifies the requirements for a generic item of plant or equipment, or a group of items, which are covered by the same criteria. The testing requirements identified will normally correspond with the certification that the diving contractor maintains in a plant and equipment register, or records in the planned maintenance system. Only generic items of diving plant and equipment are addressed, and the detail sheets do not include information on constituent parts of ancillary equipment.

Like all IMCA guidance, IMCA D 023 can be downloaded free of charge from by members and non-members alike. Printed copies are available from at £10.00 for members and £20.00 for non-members (plus 20% for delivery outside Europe).

Background to IMCA D 023 and associated guidance
In the early 1980s, in order to give some guidance to the offshore industry, IMCA’s predecessor the Association of Offshore Diving Contractors (AODC) started to produce a number of reference documents, standards and guidance notes. This process continued through the 1980s. It was clear, however, that there was still considerable confusion with some diving systems being”audited” several times a year by different clients, each of whose representatives had slightly different interpretations as to what was required.

AODC published document reference AODC 052 – ‘Diving Equipment Systems Inspection Guidance Note (DESIGN)’ – in February 1989 that sought to clarify any interpretations necessary and to identify a common standard that could be applied by all parties during an inspection. It was intended for use offshore in the UK sector of the North Sea but in the absence of other guidance it became a standard reference in many parts of the world, particularly where there were no specific national regulations.

Subsequently AODC expanded and revised the document which was re-issued as Rev. 1 in February 1995. This more comprehensive document covered both air and saturation diving systems. It was still based on the requirements of the UK sector of the North Sea but was adopted by many clients and diving contractors world-wide. Some users, however, found it to be complex and difficult to use.

With the increasingly international nature of the offshore diving industry, IMCA revised AODC 052 Rev. 1 in order to simplify it, clarify any anomalies which had shown up and adapt it for international use, rather than restrict it to North Sea use. It was also decided to split it into separate documents, one for surface diving (IMCA D 023 published 2000) and the other for saturation diving (IMCA D 024 published 2001). Subsequently documents were issued in 2006 for surface supplied mixed gas diving (IMCA D 037) and mobile/portable surface supplied diving (IMCA D 040).

IMCA D 024 for saturation/bell diving systems was updated and issued as Rev. 1 in 2013. A further update is due early in 2014.