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The Underwater Centre Blog - Training you for the job, not just the ticket

Divers Train up to 100 metres Below Surface at Remote Tasmanian Lake

‘A cold, dark lake in remote north-west Tasmania has become an unlikely destination for a global training operation. Lake Cethana is one of only a few places in the world that offers a commercial saturation diving course that trains students to work on offshore oil and gas rigs. The lake is up to 100 metres deep in places and students are given the skills to do underwater construction and maintenance.


The divers are trained in underwater construction and maintenance (ABC News: Felicity Ogilvie)

The divers are lowered into the water in complete darkness, and even with hot water pumped into their suits their fingers start to go numb. “It’s very cold for a start, it’s about 4 degrees Celsius and you can’t see much when you get down,” diver Thomas Mallinson said. “I think it’s because all of the tannin in the water [it’s] very dark — that’s why we have torches and stuff like that. “You can only see what’s in your torchlight really.”

Students learn Underwater Welding  

Mr Mallinson is a welder by trade and he is learning how to fix pipes underwater. It is one of the jobs students learn to do, but it is very different to working on land. “Welding underwater, you can’t really see the process as much, so it’s more by feel,” he said. When the cage divers are brought back to the surface, the men are moved quickly into a decompression chamber. The chamber is the same as those used at sea on oil and gas rigs, where divers spend up to a month going down to depths of 100 metres or more.  The work is lucrative and can pay about $3,000 a day, but it has its downsides.

Saturation Diver Training


Divers come from around the world to dive in the cold water of Lake Cethana (ABC News: Felicity Ogilvie)

Decompressing from saturation diving can take almost a week, leaving the workers trapped in the small chamber. ‘Robots could never replace divers’ Diving instructor Alex Caie said the work being taught at Lake Cethana was specialist work that could not be done by machines. “Divers can think for themselves, they can see outside the scope of what an ROV (remote operated vehicle) is looking at,” he said. “An ROV might not be able to get into an installation to tighten up an object they see there that’s not correct an ROV, probably won’t see it where as a diver will see it … and think ‘we need to do this, lets get it done’.”

Melbourne diver Angus Knappstein is training on this course at depths of up to 50 metres. “We do generally a lot of wharf carpentry, so a lot of up keep and maintenance work,” he said. “So this will take me up a level in my diving so I can go offshore which again is maintenance work and fixing stuff underwater.” Ronald Zapata, a diver from Columbia, said he hoped to work on offshore oil and gas rigs. “I never get scared about going in the water, it’s something I’m comfortable doing,” he said. “For me it is alright, I feel great down there, peaceful.” ‘

Reproduced from an article written by Felicity Ogilvie for ABC News, Australia which you can view here.

For further information about commercial diver training in Tasmania, contact our Student Advisors; call +61 3 6383 4844 or email

Applying for a Visa to Study at The Underwater Centre

visa-application-for-training-at-the-underwater-centre-fort-williamIf you are attending a course at The Underwater Centre, Fort William, and you’re from outside the European Economic Area you can apply to enter the UK on a Short Term Study Visa. 

(If you are unsure if you need a visa to enter the UK you can check on the UK Government website here.)

Am I eligible for a Short Term Study Visa?

To be eligible for this visa you must be able to prove the following:

  • You have been offered a place on a course in the UK at an accepted place of study.
    • The Underwater Centre is an accredited place of study through the British Accreditation Council. Once you have paid the deposit to confirm your place on your course, The Underwater Centre will issue you with a letter of confirmation for your visa application.
  • You have enough money to support yourself without working or help from public funds, or that relatives and friends can support and house you.
    • For example, bank statements or payslips for the last 6 months.
  • You can pay for your return or onward journey.

For full details on the documents you need to apply click here.

How do I apply?

You must apply online for a Short Term Study Visa on the Visa4UK website.  If you have not used the website before you can register here.  If you have used the website before you can sign in here.

You will also need to have your fingerprints and photograph (known as ‘biometric information’) taken at a visa application centre in your country.  Find your nearest visa application centre here.

What are the terms of the Short Term Study Visa?

This visa allows you to do a short course of study in the UK.

This visa does not allow you to:

  • work (including on a work placement or work experience) or carry out any business
  • extend this visa
  • bring family members (‘dependants’) with you – they must apply separately
  • get public funds.

How much does it cost to apply?

It currently costs £89 for a six month Short Term Study Visa.

How long does it take to apply?

You can apply up to three months before the date that you intend to travel to the UK (you can state on the application form when you intend to come to the UK and the visa start date will be close to this).  We recommend you apply as early as possible.  Check how long it takes to process visa applications from your country here.

For the complete UK Government Immigration Rules regarding Students click here.

To find out more about training for a commercial diving or ROV pilot technician career at The Underwater Centre, Fort William, visit our website here

Alternatively you can contact our Student Advisors on +44 1397 703786 or email

Find out more about subsea training

Free Accommodation: Benefits of Staying On Site

For 2016, all students who book onto our commercial air diving package courses receive free full-board accommodation.   Some of our Hospitality, Diving and ROV team explain what it’s like staying at The Underwater Centre, Fort William:

100528kb Restaurant 1Making all students welcome and comfortable

Joanna MacDonald manages the Hospitality team.  She says, “Our focus is on making students feel welcome and comfortable.   Students attend our commercial diving and ROV courses from lots of different countries.  Their needs vary from electric plugs to different diets.  Getting home-cooked meals 7 days a week is so important when you want to focus your energy on training.  It’s amazing what can seem like a big issue when you’re away from home, so we do everything we can to help make life easier. ”

Subsea training and accommodation on same site

Ian MacLeod, ROV Instructor, adds, “The distance of the Lodge to the dive and ROV operations and to classrooms also makes life a lot easier for students and for staff.  The accommodation is right next to the classrooms – right at the top of the pier where our ROV and dive operations are based.  This means that students don’t waste precious time travelling to and from the training site. ”

The Underwater Centre Fort William 4Opportunity to make diving and ROV career contacts

“Another great thing about staying at The Underwater Centre is that as well as training divers starting out in their careers, we also train people who’ve been in the industry for a long time,” says Ali MacLeod, Air Diving Manager. “Who you know can end up being pretty important in your career.  So you could be having breakfast and dinner next to someone who’s been in the industry for 15 years, making vital contacts for the future.  Being on site has also proven to help with student’s evening study.  After dinner the class will often be found pushing a couple of tables together, getting their books out and helping each other with their homework.”

Full board accommodation includes cooked breakfast, packed lunch and evening meals – seven days a week.  Read more about accommodation at The Underwater Centre here.

For more information, contact our Student Advisors on +44 1397 703786 or email


Explore the CentreFind out more about Commercial Diver training 2

HAZMAT Divers: Equipment & Procedures Used

Hazardous materials divers, also called HAZMAT divers, have exceptionally dangerous jobs. They find themselves in precarious conditions, and regularly expose themselves to contamination such as fuel spills or radioactive material.

However, the extreme dangers these divers face can be minimized through intense training, the right dive gear, and a thorough decontamination processes.

Here’s how:

HAZMAT Dangers for Commercial Divers

HAZMAT Equipment

Photo courtesy of Ray Reimer, commercial diver

Many bodies of water contain some sort of contamination. For divers working in mildly contaminated water, gloves, a utility belt, and a simple dry suit with a sealed neck should suffice. For water that is ‘lightly’ contaminated, a full face mask is recommended.

But HAZMAT divers, who are regularly exposed to higher levels of contamination, require specialized commercial dive gear and intensive decontamination procedures to ensure their general safety.

Divers working in exceptionally dirty and/or hazardous conditions require a full dive helmet, a stronger suit, and other specialized commercial dive gear. For example, the Thor Contaminated Water Diving Suit is built for commercial diving applications but is also a good option for military and rescue purposes and sport diving. It features vulcanized rubber that is strong enough to resist contaminants, and pliable enough to accomplish critical underwater tasks.

The Decontamination Process


No matter how strong your protective suit and commercial dive gear may be,decontamination procedures are crucial. These processes ensure the diver’s safety, and they also protect the team working within chemical or radioactive reach of the decontamination area.

HAZMAT CleaningDecontamination procedures vary depending on the hazardous materials in question, sothe HAZMAT profile for each dive area will be different. The more hazardous the elements in the water, the more thorough the decontamination process should be. However, the process also depends on the type of equipment used, and the level of protection the equipment offers.

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Decontamination areas should be set up in zones: High-contamination zones remove the bulk of HAZMAT materials; Low-contamination zones work as a buffer; and a final safe zone, ideally up wind, that is completely free of hazardous materials.
  • The high-contamination zone needs to be in a water-impermeable area where potential contaminants can be contained and disposed of. During this stage, the diver can expect to be rinsed with fresh water from a high-pressure system. If fresh water is not available, salt water can be used.
  • A cleaning solution may be required. Although the exact mixture depends on the contaminants present, a mild bleach solution is most frequently used.
  • Wire brushes are used to clean the diver. Generally, the decontamination process involves more than one person—one to spray and clean the diver, and another to look for holes or other compromises in the dive suit fabric.

Ready, Set, Dive

Although HAZMAT divers face several dangers on their dives, safety risks can be minimized through proper gear and decontamination procedures. With the proper training and certification, potential issues or concerns can be put at ease.

Reblogged from  Read the original article here.

Find out more about Commercial Diver training 2

Ingrid Vickers Takes on New Student Support Role

Ingrid Vickers has been a Student Advisor at The Underwater Centre for over 10 years: as such she’s well known as being a friendly face for our students.  As one of the first points of contact students ever have with the Centre, she has now taken a new role as Student Liaison to continue that support throughout their training and into their careers.

Ingrid Vickers Student Liaison The Underwater CentreSupport throughout training

This role builds on the help she already provides students with as they make the decision to begin a new career as an ROV pilot or commercial diver.  Ingrid says, “Sometimes you can speak to someone on and off for years before they actually come on a course, so you can really get to know folk.  It’s great for them to keep getting support from a familiar face once they’re here.”

Once students are at the Centre Ingrid will continue to be their main point of contact for any questions or assistance they feel they need.  For a lot of students, many of whom come from overseas or are recent school-leavers, this support will help them to ease into their studies and get the most out of their diving or ROV training.  Ingrid adds, “I was always happy to answer questions from students during my normal office hours – now I’ve got more time dedicated to do so, and provide any follow up that’s needed.”

More assistance for graduates

IStudent Support at The Underwater Centre Fort Williamn addition, Ingrid’s new role also allows her to provide more support to students once they have graduated, and throughout their careers.  This new support builds on the Career Advice Sessions that are available for students during their training.  She explains, “I always tried to stay in touch with students anyway; now I’m doing a lot more phoning around.  I’ll be contacting students three and six months after they’ve graduated, and emailing them for feedback.  I’ll be able to see how they’re doing, if they’re taking the right approach, and if they need any help, such as knowing who the local dive companies are.”

‘I’m definitely a people-person; students know and trust me. While there has always been support for students at The Underwater Centre, I’m really pleased that I’m now able to formally take on this role and increase the help they can get.”

Read more about Ingrid on the Meet the Team section of our website, alternatively give her a call on +44 1397 703786 or email

Find out more about student support