The South African Navy (SAN) is re-introducing Ship’s Divers aboard its vessels.
The initiative is designed to train crew members with the additional diving qualification, over and above their normal ship duties. This qualification will enable the ship’s diver to dive to a depth of 21 metres.
Thus, if a Chef aboard a frigate has been qualified as a Ship Diver and a valve needs to be blanked off, then there is no requirement to get a specialist diver from the nearest shore base. A number of crew members will be qualified as Ship Divers.
The Career Diver specialisation is still available, but will remain an extremely tough qualification to obtain. Career Divers are qualified to dive to a depth of 54m, with exposure to the roughest of diving conditions, such as nitrogen narcosis.
Rear Admiral Robert “Rusty” Higgs, Flag Officer Fleet, speaking to defenceWeb at the SAN Gender Conference, said: “This was something which was initiated a number of generations back, but was then stopped for a number of reasons years ago and we are revitalising that at the moment”.
The Navy does not require a large number of career divers, but there is a need for a lot of ship divers. The example Higgs gave was that of a submarine or ship at sea which had a rope tangled in the propeller 30 miles South of Cape Point, in a five metre swell, in the middle of the night. The Ship Diver would then be able to ‘plop` over the side and cut the ship free so that the ship could continue with what it had to do.
The diving qualification is voluntary and over 40 volunteers, including men and women from all races, have applied. The first course will commence at the end of October and will last seven weeks. A second course is planned for early next year.
“We are phasing this in where people will do this as an ‘over and above`, the big motivating, inspiring, point is that people will be able to wear the Ships Diving badge,” Higgs said.