Monthly Archives: January 2014


Just in from RNAS Culdrose is some information about the use of the Porthkerris AT facility.

 Porthkerris now has a new building manager: A/Sgt Shaun Roberts PTI RM

There a big future plans to try to make this a multi use AT centre. But for the immediate future there will be some disruption to expeds due to maintenance being done. This week the CPO Fire Safety Advisor has had to close the building for all use until the defects he picked up are rectified. To that end I just want to warn all divers of this and that I will be doing my best to get the building operational as quick as the defects are complete. My feeling is Feb and Early Mar may be an issue. All Exped leaders are advise to check with me before coming in case of last minute change.

A/Sgt Shaun Roberts, RM PT2, OIC Porthkerris, Fleet Air Arm Water Sports Centre, RNAS Culdrose, Helston, Cornwall, TR12 7RH

Mil: 93781 7161, Civ: 01326 574121

For those who haven’t been there then Porthkerris is an outstanding diving location on the South Coast of Cornwall between Falmouth and the Helford River. It was established in the 50s as an observation centre for sea gunnery training. The observation tower is three storeys high and perched close to the rocky sea front.

There are access ways into the sea via steps. The tower is in a small compound that is about 70 – 80 metres square and surrounded by security fencing. Access to the site is down a narrow track that comes through a cutting in the rock. The inside of the tower is clean and reasonably maintained containing dormitories for 18 people, a kitchen and eating area, ablutions and air compressors delivering up to 232 bar.

Diver Recall Clarification

I’ve just put out the letter below which I hope should address one of the concerns raised at the JS Diving Safety Conference:


Following the JS Diving Safety Conference on 14 Jan 14, it is clear that clarification is required concerning the responsibilities of SADS for ensuring that they have adequately considered diver recall. In my capacity as the sub-aqua SME to Captain Naval Physical Development (CNPD), and in conjunction with Superintendent of Diving (SofD), I’ve put together the note below which I hope provides the necessary clarification.

Most experienced divers know that many commonly relied on diver recall systems, such as metal on metal or engine revving, have limited effectiveness, particularly when wearing a hood. This was recently highlighted at a meeting of the British Diving Safety Group (BDSG) following an assessment carried out on their behalf. Subsequently, it was briefed at the Joint Services Safety Conference.

Existing BSAC procedures and training states that a suitable diver recall system should be available during all open-water diving. Although explosive devices, such as thunderflashes, are undoubtedly extremely effective in alerting divers they carry additional risks, are unsuitable for transportation on civilian aircraft and are also illegal in many countries. Other options, such as SMBs and underwater audio systems, are either unsuitable for all types of diving, or expensive and bulky. The bottom line is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

This issue was also raised at the JS Sub Aqua Diving Policy Advisory Committee on 15 Jan and I’ll be recommending that it is highlighted up the chain of command via inclusion on the Adventurous Training Operational Safety Working Group(AT OSWG) risk matrix. As part of the mitigation measures, a key recommendation will be to carry out a more scientific investigation than the BDSG assessment. This should provide a clear understanding of the effectiveness and suitability of different diver recall systems. This information can then be widely disseminated for use by SADS and others. Hopefully this work will also recommend a solution that can then be resourced via the various funding routes.

Clearly this will not happen overnight and therefore in the interim we will all need to operate using existing methods. SADS need to be aware that all methods have limitations and this needs to form part of the risk assessment that you already carry out before every dive. Like many of the decisions you make, you may need to balance dive profile, site conditions, hazards and other factors and be prepared to justify them in the event of an incident.

Just in case you feel that these are not the sorts of issues that impact on us here at JSSADC then please let me illustrate with an example. Along with staff from CJSATC and KTC, we’re shortly due to conduct our annual staff training period based in Aqaba, Jordan. Thunderflashes are not an option and many of the dives will be on walls or wrecks making SMBs a potential snag hazard. My plan therefore will be to document the risk in the project plan and put in place a series of mitigation measures. As examples, these will include the requirement to use SMBs whenever possible, or deploy a DSMB once clear of the wreck/wall, or if separated. We will also conduct a test of the alternative systems on the shakeout dive so that everyone has heard them and reinforce this by briefing throughout the trip.

I know many of you will be concerned by the scrutiny that will be applied on this issue during your periodic inspections by the Diving Standards Team (DST). They are both experienced and pragmatic SADS who understand the challenges that the diver recall issue poses to branches and expeditions. Their role is to ensure that you have also identified that the risk exists and put in place appropriate mitigating measures. That to me seems eminently reasonable and something that I’d hope we’d all support.

If this isn’t clear or you’d like to discuss particular situations then please do not hesitate to get in touch.


>>>>>  Link to a downloadable copy of this letter <<<<<

JS Diving Safety Conference 2014

The 2014 Joint Service Diving Safety Conference took place in the Roebuck Theatre at HMS RALEIGH on 14 Jan 14.  Attendance was impressive with over 70 divers attracted from across the UK and current military postings.  A particularly fine effort was made by the BSADS who managed to get back from the Falklands but we also had attendees from Cyprus, Germany, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

It was my conference so I kicked proceedings off with an update on events at JSSADC.  Most of the presentation concerned the move from Fort Bovisand and our new setup in HMNB Devonport.  The bottom line is that JSSADC is fully open for business and that our future will look even brighter when we get our new building sorted in (hopefully) the next few months – click here for my presentation


At this point we were well ahead of time so the decision was made to bring forward our next speaker.  We were extremely fortunate to have Dr Sally Simmons from the Diving Diseases Research Centre (DDRC) who tackled the thorny issue of diver culture with her presentation entitled ‘Denial is a Long River’ – .see here for the slides.

After a break, Jim Watson from the British Sub Aqua Club took the stand.  Impressively sprightly, considering he’d left Manchester at 0200hrs to be with us, his presentation ranged widely proving an extremely comprehensive look at some of the current issues within the club and an analysis of incidents captured throughout 2013. There was also a detailed comparison with previous years. Full slide pack here – BSAC Presentation

Next up was Peter Holt from The Ships Project to talk about his plans to mark the 70th anniversary of the sinking in 1944 of probably the most dived wreck in the UK – the SS James Eagan Layne.   His presentation provided a wealth of information, and some exquisite 3D images, of this incredible wreck.  Click here to see it.

After lunch Monty Halls stepped onto the stage and wowed the audience with the stories behind the filming of his most recent TV series.  If you haven’t see ‘Mysteries of the Deep’ then you should do asap and if you have then you’ll know why!

Following this was never going to be an easy task but Cdr Chris Baldwin, Superintendent of Diving (SofD), was at least pleased that Monty had stressed the importance of remaining firmly within the HSE Diving at Work regulations.  Aided by the Diving Standards Officer (AT), Nick Harrington, SofD briefed the conference on his role as the diving regulator and covered a number of live issues including CBNA certificates, diver recall & JSP 917.  The full presentation can be accessed here.

Finally I introduced the members of the catchily titled Joint Service Sub Aqua Diving Policy Advisory Committee (JSSADPAC) who took to the stage for a lively Q&A.  A wide variety of ground was covered including funding for RN clubs, thoughts about the current SADS scheme, feedback from assurance visits and diver recall systems.  Many of these were also taken forward at the JSSADPAC meeting that took place the next day and I anticipate these will be fed back to clubs via their single service associations.

Subsequently a number of individuals have approached me indicating that there was inadequate time to cover all topics and this is something that I’ll ensure is amended for next year.  In the interim I’m also exploring with the chair of the JSSADPAC for a way in which further questions can be raised.  Watch this space!

The only thing that remains to be said is that the date for the 2015 Diving Safety Conference has been set for 18 March 2015, a DIN will go out in due course but in the interim you may wish to mark it in your diary.


Guidance on Snorkelling / Breath-Hold / Free-Diving / Duck-Diving after Scuba Diving

I’ve recently received the note below from the Superintendent of Diving which needs to be widely disseminated:

Fellow Divers, a recent tragic incident which occurred during an Expedition which took place overseas, has identified a number of lessons, which the Service Sub-Aqua Diving community needs to be informed about. While the investigation process is still ongoing to fully explain the cause of this incident and which I can therefore not comment on at present, one clear aspect of the circumstances needs to be carefully considered by all those enjoying SCUBA diving for authorised Adventurous Training and Service recreational purposes, namely the practice of snorkelling and breath-hold diving, after diving using SCUBA.

The risk of a shallow water blackout when conducting even shallow breath- hold diving is well documented and while it is virtually impossible to ‘police’ this activity, I would strongly advise anyone indulging in this activity to cease doing so in the future. The risk of decompression sickness being aggravated by the practice of breath-hold diving after SCUBA diving is the subject of debate within the hyperbaric medicine community. But it does appear that there is a possibility of DCS occurring during breath-hold diving following diving involving the use of compressed gas. Therefore, until this risk can be discounted, it must be made clear to divers by the SADS, that during Service Sub – Aqua diving projects, divers must not engage in breath-hold diving activity until they are clear of residual gas as indicated by dive computer or calculated from dive tables. By breath-hold diving I mean that activity where individuals take a breath on the surface and ‘duck dive’ underwater to any depth. This obviously also means ‘free-diving’ and a number of free-diving websites already warn against this practice. Military divers have been prohibited from breath-hold diving since the death of Lt MacAuley RN in 2002 and in light of the recent incident it is clear that this prohibition must apply to Service Sub – Aqua Diving also.

With regard to snorkelling, many divers, me included, carry a snorkel for use on the surface and if used on the surface only, I do not believe that there is any potential increase in risk of DCS or actual risk of shallow water blackout.

Indeed in an ‘out of gas’ situation, the availability of a snorkel could be considered to be a piece of emergency equipment. However, while there is no clear guidance from BSAC, it is considered reasonable to ask Service Sub-Aqua Divers to wait until they have completed their off-gassing period before undertaking anything other than snorkelling on the surface activities.

C M Baldwin, Cdr RN, MOD SofD

Expeds Without A SADS

In order to clarify the position of when overseas diver training centres can be used without a SADS, 2014DIN07-049 has been released.  This explains which centres are approved and also explains the process by which additional centres can be added to the list.

The full DIN can be downloaded via the Defence Intranet.

This DIN should be read in accordance with JSP 917, shortly to be BRd2806(5) which clearly highlights the particular restrictions for expeditions without a SADS.  This includes the fact that diving can only be conducted on recognised training courses.