Find us on Facebook Connect on LinkedIn Follow on Twitter Watch us on YouTube Get us on Google
The Underwater Centre Blog - Training you for the job, not just the ticket

Bibby Offshore Train in Oxy-Arc Underwater Cutting Techniques

Bibby Offshore divers recently attended The Underwater Centre to prepare for upcoming decommissioning projects by completing a newly launched 5 day Oxy-Arc Underwater Cutting course. 

Newly created and bespoke underwater cutting course

Bibby-Diver-Completes-Underwater-Cutting-TaskIn partnership with Bibby Offshore and ConocoPhillips, The Underwater Centre has developed an Oxy-Arc Underwater Cutting course designed to provide training in the safe and practical use of ultra-thermic methods. 

We are the only training provider in Europe equipped and located to deliver this realistic training. Our training site provides students with a subsea experience that includes structures and equipment present in the North Sea.

An extensive programme of decommissioning works will be taking place throughout the subsea industry over the coming years. These projects require underwater cutting of subsea structures, or equipment, and widely involve the use of various cutting techniques. These techniques include using saws, shears and water jet cutters or the use of a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). 

There are occasions when sending commercial divers to carry out subsea cutting is the only option for a successful project. Diving personnel are required to be safe and proficient in underwater cutting methods. 


Oxy-Arc underwater cutting techniques

The decommissioning project the Bibby Offshore divers were contracted for had the potential to require the use of Oxy-Arc underwater cutting techniques.  The divers therefore needed to be trained to ensure competence in cutting knowledge and practice, to mitigate any risk involved in the project. This safety aspect formed a key focus during their 5-day practical course. 

The course was based on the IOGP R 471 “Oxy-Arc Underwater Cutting Recommended Practice” and provided Bibby divers with knowledge and practical competency in burning practices, procedures and handling techniques, theory of cutting methods, pre and post-job considerations, Oxy-Arc risks and mitigation, and practical dives. 

The final practical assessments involved the divers completing cuts on bespoke test pieces, which were created specifically for this course. 

Ensuring commercial divers are safe and competent

The Bibby Offshore divers displayed a high level of competence and knowledge during the course.

Bibby Offshore’s Director of Diving, Allan Nairn noted: “With the anticipated programme of decommissioning works over the coming years, we saw the clear benefits of participating in the training course for Oxy Arc underwater cutting..  ConocoPhillips were instrumental in driving the need for this and we were delighted to work in conjunction with both them and the team at the Underwater Centre.  This ensures that we are well placed to provide cutting techniques which deploy diving personnel as an alternative option to ROVs and most importantly, in a safe and efficient manner for our clients.”Bibby-Divers-Presented-Underwater-Cutting-Certificate

We also welcomed the visit of a Health & Safety Executive (HSE) HM Inspector Diving Specialist for the duration of the course. The HSE recognised the contribution to reducing diver risk, the content of the course syllabus and professionalism of the overall course. 

This Oxy-Arc Underwater Cutting training course is available to other operators or commercial divers and has helped to safely re-establish an important skill in North Sea decommissioning methods. 


If you would like to find out more about our Oxy-Arc Underwater Cutting course or to find out how your company can train at The Underwater Centre, please call +44 (0) 1397 703 786 or email [email protected] for further information. Read More About Oxy-Arc Underwater Cutting

Commercial Diving and HSE: A Diving Operations Safety Partnership

We welcomed a visit from Health & Safety Executive representative Bill Elrick, to provide our staff and instructors with a safety overview and industry update from the regulator’s perspective. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulate and enforce health and safety legislation to prevent work-related death, injury or ill health throughout Great Britain. As part of their work, the HSE engage and collaborate with a number of stakeholders within the offshore industry, including commercial diving training schools.

Engage with commercial diving training establishments

HSE Advise Regulate Enforce

As part of maintaining a dialogue with commercial diving training schools we welcomed HM Inspector Diving Specialist, Bill Elrick, based in Aberdeen within the Health and Safety Executive Diving Group (part of the Offshore Energy Division), who  work to regulate all Diving at Work operations including the Oil and Gas Industry. Bill’s early career was with the Royal Navy before starting his role in the specialist diving department; he previously attended the, formerly-named, HSE Part 2 course at The Underwater Centre in 1986.

Bill’s current role sits within a network of HSE Inspectors who form a Diving Operations Safety Team (D.O.S.T.) in locations including Aberdeen, Portsmouth, Bristol and Newcastle. All HSE Inspectors hold warrant and various powers to allow the lawful execution of their role.

All commercial diving areas are within the HSE scope as “any reward for services is classed as work and therefore falls under HSE regulations which layout certain standards for a commercial diver” and these include Offshore, Inland / Inshore Civils, Renewables, Decommissioning, Police  and Military diving.

The HSE have three main areas of responsibility; Advise, Regulate, Enforce

As a HM Inspector, Bill is appointed a warrant that provides him with powers that can be exercised under law, although not the power of arrest, to enable the intervention and prevention of incidents whereby a breach or potential breach of regulations is occurring. Some circumstances can mean that HM Inspectors hold more powers under law than a Police Officer can legally exercise.

Multiple sectors and actions undertaken are monitored, inspected and investigated by the HSE and we were provided with insight into some “hot topics” that are described in more detail below.

HSE Diving Industry QuoteHSE Key Areas of Interest

Diving Medicals; a trend is emerging whereby forged medical certificates are being passed to diving schools and investigations have found that even divers themselves are creating their own medical certificate as proof of diving fitness. 

Qualifications; HSE are inspecting qualification standards, investigating reports of diver false record keeping and divers who are handing over false qualification tickets.

Shell Fish Diving; the HSE are working with this industry to ensure HSE regulations and information leaflet are followed to reduce associated risks as serious accidents continue to be reported each year.

Decommissioning; as subsea organisations start the process of decommissioning, the HSE will be working with stakeholders to maintain the safety of underwater cutting and ensuring that training schools and operators alike are practicing safe methods.

Client Responsibility; ensuring that organisations responsible for dive operations are acting in a safe manner and aware that they have responsibility over risk and hazards. The diver, supervisor, contractor and client are all responsible for safety during a diving project.

HSE-approved commercial diving training provider

HM Inspector, Bill Elrick, works with The Underwater Centre to ensure that we continue to deliver training courses in a safe manner and advises us on opportunities where we could develop our training to incorporate changes to regulations, for example, or visiting training sessions to witness first-hand training by our experienced instructors. 

As a HSE-approved commercial diving training provider you can find out more information about these courses which include our Premium Industry Package, HSE Surface Supplied and HSE Closed Bell.

If you have any questions or require further information then please contact our Student Advisors by calling +44 1397 703 786 or email [email protected]

Find Out More Button

Robotics Week 2017: How Robotics Could Transform the Oil & Gas Industry

The Oil & Gas Technology Centre held a Robotics Week in Aberdeen to connect industry, experts and stakeholders to explore and discuss the use of robotics offshore.

Robotics Week, held between 30th October and 3rd November 2017, was focused on the use of robotics and technology offshore within the oil & gas industry, with workshops, discussions and talks held by various industry experts and representatives from The Oil & Gas Technology Centre in what was an engaging week for the industry.

The Oil & Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) organised a series of events that made up #RoboticsWeek; bringing industry and technology experts together to discuss the many challenges and opportunities that robotics can bring to oil & gas. The first day was an opportunity for OGTC to kick-off discussions and for industry stakeholders to showcase some of their technology and equipment.

Rebecca Allison, Asset Integrity Solution Centre Manager, OGTC provided onlookers with a sneak peek into the week of events in this short Robotics Week Introduction YouTube video:

Air, Land and Sea Robotics

Day two brought a focus on Air, Land and Sea Robotics; an interesting day for industry experts to collaborate in workshops and discussion around identifying where robotics could transform the industry and also discuss gaps in the oil & gas industry that robotic technology could innovate in the future; among the companies showcasing their technology were Subsea 7, Edinburgh Robotics, Texo DSI Ltd and Inuktun Services.


Photos courtesy of @theogtc via Twitter

A robotic revolution is happening… What about oil & gas?

With full-day workshops on day 3 focusing on Technology Projects, Call for Ideas and TechX , industry experts and stakeholders continued to discuss ideas on how the oil & gas industry can transform in the future and also find out more about OGTC technology development programmes that cover five key themes:  Asset Integrity, Decommissioning, Digital Transformation, Small Pools and Well Construction.

Rebecca Allison, Asset Integrity Solution Centre Manager, OGTC commented during an interview with Energy Voice that “the application of robotics is limitless in the oil & gas industry… we have only just scratched the surface”(watch the interview here).

Our Commercial Director, Steve Ham, attended the event and commented saying “It was great to have attended the opening event of Robotics Week. There were some thought provoking presentations from leading robotics experts on the growing opportunities that development in robotics present to the oil & gas industry, and also some glimpse of the challenges ahead.  Great to see OGTC contributing to a wider understanding of the potential that robotics bring to the industry.”

That’s a wrap…

Robotics Week 2017 wrapped-up with Tech Talks and a Robotics showcase with key insights delivered by MTC Manufacturing Technology Centre, Coventry who commented on robotics by saying “we’re seeing more application of humans working with robots, we get receptiveness from robots and skill from the human….motion capture and augmented reality (AR) is being used to help robots learn so we can use less programming”

With thanks to @theogtc for the many insights shared during #RoboticsWeek. 

We have been thinking where developments in technology, robotics and systems will take subsea training in the future, and even what systems we could be using to train divers and ROV pilots! We’ve seen examples of augmented reality being used for some high-tech training but what if this became the norm? Truly exciting times and something that will change the way that the oil & gas industry operates.  It’s with thanks to The Oil & Gas Technology Centre that events, such as Robotics Week, can bring together industry experts and leaders to explore how technology can transform and innovate for the future. 

SIMOPS and Seismic Operations: Keeping Diver Safety a Priority

Diver safety is a constant priority for diving personnel, contractors, training establishments and regulators alike to ensure that operations are as safe as they can be and risk is minimised. 

Our Dive Training Authority, Alf Leadbitter, who leads on diver safety at The Underwater Centre, sits as a member of the IMCA Diving SMTT (Diving Safety, Medical, Technical & Training Committee) who undertake much of the development and review work within the Diving Division programme. The SMTT includes volunteers from diving contractors, equipment suppliers and training establishments around the world.

The IMCA SMTT recently discussed simultaneous marine operations (SIMOPS) and seismic surveys in support of offshore oil & gas exploration and the potentially dangerous risks to divers in the water during these operations. 

Commercial diver safety during subsea operations

A publication, Offshore Support Journal, recently published an article that discusses SIMOPS and IMCA working group recommendations following reports received that, during a number of recent seismic survey/diving SIMOPS, operators reported that diving with seismic operations had to be halted at a much greater distance from divers than has previously been considered standard practice. 

4d seismic survey illustration from BP

Image courtesy of BP Global

SIMOPS is defined as “performing two or more operations concurrently” and can be described as a potential clash of activities which could bring about an undesired set of circumstances, resulting in risks to safety, the environment, damage to assets, schedule, commercial, or financial impact.

These activities typically include, but are not limited to, a vessel undertaking a non-routine operation within an installation’s 500 m zone; subsea umbilical, risers and flowlines operations; or field developments with multi-vessel / contractor operations. SIMOPS often involve multiple companies (owners, contractors, subcontractors and vendors), large multi-disciplined workforces and a wide range of daily, 24 hour, routine and non-routine construction and commissioning activities.

With marine seismic surveys increasingly taking place in already developed, operational fields, concern has been expressed about their potential to interfere with routine operations and pose a health and safety risk to personnel. Managing SIMOPS involving seismic operations has become an increasingly complex issue that, if not well planned and executed, can result in unnecessary delays and downtime, compromised data quality and potential health and safety concerns. This has brought about a change in guidance from IMCA and a working group to be formed to ensure that any impact is reduced and operations can be well planned. 

Keeping SIMOPS and seismic operations safe for all concerned

IMCA reported that on a number of occasions diving had to be halted at around 30 km of separation. The reports strongly suggest that the 10 km distance quoted in DMAC 12 Rev 1 – Safe diving distance from seismic surveying operations as being an appropriate distance for the initiation of a joint risk assessment between all parties is “far too short.”

A workgroup comprising of IMCA, the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers, DMAC (the Diving Medical Advisory Committee) and seismic surveying representatives was formed to consider the matter and it is good to know that updated guidance has now been drafted, which will recommend:

  • Where diving and seismic activity are scheduled to occur within a distance of 60 km, all parties should be made aware of the planned activity. As a minimum, this should include clients/operators, diving and seismic contractors.
  • Where seismic survey/diving SIMOPS are proposed within a distance of 30 km, a joint risk assessment should be undertaken. The risk assessment should consider ramp-up trials as well as other risk control measures.
  • If the risk assessment generates a requirement for a ramp-up trial, the starting point for the trial will also need to be determined by the risk assessment.
  • Should any member of the diving team in the water suddenly experience discomfort, the seismic source should be turned off immediately if a request is made to do so.

Alf continues to be an active member of the IMCA SMTT, ensuring that health and safety within the diving industry remains a top priority and that the industry can work together, providing shared expert knowledge and guidance. We will publishan update on this matter if we hear more.

If you are interested in finding out more about our commercial diver training and facilities, be sure to click the link below or contact our Student Advisors by calling +44 1397 703 786 or email [email protected].

Find Out More Button


Forth Ports Receive Vital Dive Operations Familiarisation

Ali MacLeod, Dive Training Manager at The Underwater Centre, recently delivered diving familiarisation training for Forth Ports Limited at their training base in Grangemouth. As a responsible client who frequently hire in diving contractors, Forth Ports requested training for personnel involved in diving projects.

Complying with Diving at Work regulations

This training is valuable to anyone who, as a client, hires a dive team to undertake work for them as Forth Ports do. The Diving at Work Regulations and associated Approved Codes of Practice (ACoPs) state that clients have a duty to ensure they comply with the regulations, and therefore they should be familiar with their responsibilities. The training included a wide range of topics, such as awareness of the Inland/Inshore ACoP, the role of the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) and the ADC (Association of Diving Contractors), recognised diving qualification in the UK, medical requirements, log books, the physiological challenges of diving, project plans, minimum team numbers, access and egress methods and emergency diver recovery.

The importance of understanding commercial dive operations

When a company or an individual investigates hiring a dive team to undertake work for them they may be surprised to learn that a surface supplied dive team will require a minimum of five people. The perception may be that, out of those five, the only one who appears to be working is the diver in the water; clients must recognise that diving is a high hazard activity and without the support of attendants – a standby diver and a supervisor on the surface – the diver faces grave danger should an emergency occur.  


It would be understandably tempting to hire a couple of local scuba divers with a handful of tools and a GoPro camera to do the job, but the minimum numbers on the dive teams that are required by the HSE’s Diving at Work Regulations are the result of years of experience and expert industry knowledge. Without following regulations there have been known cases of serious injury or even loss of life.  Diving can never be conducted safely when regulations are ignored, so knowledge of them is essential for any company planning on using divers.

Ensuring companies have better knowledge to make safe decisions

The training we deliver is aimed at giving people the knowledge they need to be better informed when hiring dive teams. It can be tailored to specific company needs and on-site, making it cost-effective and efficient, and includes access and direction to all available resources to ensure companies stay on track in the future.

If you or your company want to find out more about commercial diving operations please contact us on +44 1397 703786 or email [email protected]