New Zealand Underwater Association


Code of Practice



Commercial Vessels Used for Recreational and Occupational Scuba Diving


Related Diving Activities



 - 2002 -

1.       FOREWORD


This Code of Practice has been developed to establish a responsible, safe and self-regulating attitude within the whole sphere of recreational and occupational diving activities and includes operational dive vessels and their safety related aspects. However it does not include construction diving as defined in part 2 Categories of Occupational Diving in the OSH Guidelines for Occupational Diving 2001. Part 2 Category divers have there own set of requirements


a)      This Code of Practice addresses issues related to individual divers, dive clubs, scuba diving training agencies, charter boat masters, charter boat operators, regulatory authorities, dive tourism and other operators engaged in diving operations.


b)      This Code of Practice enhances and compliments regulations and rules for vessels, used fully or partially, for recreational and occupational diving activities. This Code of Practice details and clarifies specific training, training equipment and other equipment that may be used on a vessel that is used for recreational and occupational diving activities.


c)      This Code of Practice references other appropriate information for guidance. “See section 9 References”


2.         DIVING VESSEL


a)      A diving vessel is one that is engaged in diving activities where a person or persons from a vessel engage in in-water activities where a mask and swim fins are used.


b)      Diving activities include “however” are not limited to; scuba diving, snorkeling, scientific research, fish gathering, photography, fishing, monitoring, seal swimming and other marine mammal encounters.


c)      All applicable vessels must comply with requirements of relevant Maritime Rules made under the Maritime Transport Act 1994.





There must be a suitable qualified person on board who is skilled in the operation of the vessel and the vessel’s generic and specific safety equipment. (The Master or his delegated representative who is skilled and qualified in the operation of the vessel)


a)      The Master of the boat is responsible for the safe operation of the vessel and all on board at all times.






b)      The OSH Guidelines for Occupational Diving 2001 4.16 Diving from Boats states: That the skipper and crew of any boat used in diving work shall at all times, ensure that the operation of the boat complies with any relevant Maritime Safety Authority requirements. Any boat used while diving operations are taking place must at all times be manned by a competent person able to respond immediately to any diving emergency situation, which may develop and must be adhered to.


c)      A suitably qualified skilled person known as the Diving Activities Supervisor (DAS)

                                             i.            Who holds a current first aid certificate and has proof of training in the use of, and administration of emergency oxygen in diving related incidents / accidents, and

                                           ii.            Shows evidence of training in diving hand signals, diving tables, and has

                                          iii.            An understanding of the function of dive computers and

                                         iv.            dive rostering and diving surface rescue techniques, and

                                           v.            is able to evaluate conditions at the dive site and

                                         vi.            give the divers a briefing of what to expect to see, depths, currents, possible hazards and emergency procedures at the site, must be on board to supervise diving activities,                       

                                        vii.            The Diving Activities Supervisor could also be the master if so qualified

(See section 3a)


The role and responsibility of the DAS is to observe, supervise and control diving surface activities on the boat and from the boat





An orientation familiarization and introduction of the vessel, its equipment, it’s crew and their role and objectives of the dive and location of the dive sites is essential prior to the commencement of any journey and must be conducted by the vessels Master and or the Diving Activities Supervisor


This orientation familiarization should include but not be limited to:


a)    Location of safety equipment and its intended use (e.g. lifejackets, lifebuoys, personal flotation devices, flares, radio, EPIRB, first aid equipment, oxygen, resuscitation unit, fire-fighting equipment etc.


b)   Location and function of specific areas of the vessel, including the wet and dry changing areas and accommodation when appropriate.


c)   Areas that are off limits to passengers. If an area is off limits part time it should be established when and under what circumstances.


d)   Duties and responsibilities of the crew, Diving Activities Supervisor, safety personnel and individual divers


e)   Ground tackle (anchor) and if assistance may be required in laying and weighing the anchor.


f)    Visual and written roll calls. Passengers list should be kept separate from crew list the passengers name and sex.


g)   Discussion of projected sites, expected weather and environmental conditions and objectives of the dive should be conducted with the Diving Activities Supervisor.


h)   Discuss the vessels procedures for what to do in the event of a diving related emergency


i)    A reminder to persons who suffer from motion sickness and/or who are taking medication, of the possible side effects of some forms of medication during diving activities i.e. pressure related problems.


j)    Placement of litter containers. No litter overboard!


k)   Reminder of safe diving practices and adherence to seafood regulations is the responsibility of the Diving Activity Supervisor in consultation with the Master of the vessel.


l)    In circumstances where the safety of the vessel and passengers is concerned the Master has full responsibility.


m)  Liaison between the vessels Master and the Diving Activities Supervisor re destinations and dive sites are required in relation to experience levels of divers.



5.      EQUIPMENT (Specific to diving operations also see Maritime Rules Part 40A appendix 8)


Safety equipment must be properly maintained and stowed. A copy of the maintenance schedule must be available for view by MSA authorised personnel, Safe Ship Management Companies and Safe Operational Plan authorised persons. Crew and passengers must be briefed on the location of safety equipment on board the vessel.



The following additional equipment should be carried and maintained for the purpose of dive operations


a)   Dive Flag Code ‘A’ and other relevant signals and satisfactory hoisting site for all round visibility (see appropriate maritime rules in references).


b)   Adequate entry and exit area(s), ladder or platform.


c)   Anchor(s) suitable for varying dive sites,


d)   Secure arrangements or areas for cylinder and equipment bag stowage.


e)   Appropriate dive roster for use by the Diving Activities Supervisor.


f)    Surface support float station and shot line capable of supporting a diver in the event of emergency moving of the vessel.


g)   In considering contingency aspect, the operator must ensure availability of such options such that consideration is given to emergency management for  (1) Area location (2) availability of assistance from other craft (3) procedures of rapid response to divers (4) vessel size, maneuverability.


h)    Where the circumstances dictate, a suitable tender craft must be available and ready to respond.


i)    Oxygen (O² Unit for first aid) and accessories. There are several sizes of O² cylinders and regulators available. The preferred system is a demand valve however most O² regulators currently in use by dive operators are free flow. There are other O² systems available that may be acceptable by the industry. Contact the   New Zealand Underwater Association (NZU). Diving Activities Supervisors should ensure that the size of the oxygen cylinder available on the vessel is sufficient to last the time it would take the vessel to get the patient being cared for, to an appropriate facility or professional trained person for continuing care.


j)     O² cylinders are available from .41 M³. This would last approx. half an hour, where a 6.8 M³ O² cylinder would last approx. 9 hours.


k)    Available No-Decompression Dive Tables (time / depth limits guide for divers) NOTE: Because people differ in their susceptibility to decompression sickness and there are many contributing factors, no dive table can guarantee that decompression sickness will never occur even though dives are made within table limits. All trained divers should have been advised of this.


l)    Float line for streaming astern to assist in diver pickup.


m)  Appropriate first aid kit and first aid reference manual.


n)    Required night diving lights as per the appropriate maritime rule.


o)    Hypothermia sheet or space blanket for protection and assisting in the rewarming of hypothermic patients.


p)    Accident management and contingency plans for emergency. Detail recording facilities for the management of an accident should be made available.


q)    Decal with NZUA Diver Emergency Services (DES). The contact information on it - 0800 4 DES 111 (0800 4 337 111) - is considered as extremely important as it puts you directly in touch with experts in handling diving related emergencies.


r)    A dive compressor, when installed, shall be operated and comply with the standards rules and regulations referred to in the NZU Guide to the Code of Practice for compressor and dangerous goods regulations (Class 2 gases) 1980.


s)    Cylinders being charged with air from this compressor must comply with the Dangerous Goods or Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Regulations and their subsequent amendments.





a)      Verify individual diver’s qualifications and experience. Ensure that appropriate buddies are assigned.


b)      Establish dive roster.


c)      Establish the individual buddy teams dive objectives.


d)      Give a site orientation include depth, current, topographies, bottom composition, special features, hazards and safety features.


e)      Establish communications and recall procedures.


f)        Advise on recommended pattern or course for the dive.


g)      Assist with equipment assembly, pre and post dive checks, procedures, & dive planning and oversee activities.


h)      Discuss emergency procedures with the skipper including diver pickup, problem management, and the role of the skipper and crew.


i)         A proper lookout should be maintained at all times and procedures of rapid response to divers requiring immediate surface assistance.




a)      The Master of the vessel and the Diving Activities Supervisor should expect individuals to care for themselves and lend some assistance to others.


b)      Divers have a duty and responsibility to be familiar with and abide by Standard Safe Diving Practice at all times.


c)      Individual divers and their buddy must dive within their experience and or their qualifications.




a)   Operators should be familiar with Maritime Safety Authority MSA accident / incident reporting & recording and when an accident is an MSA issue and of the requirement to report to MSA and or Occupational safety and Health (OSH).



b)   Diving Activity Supervisors must be familiar with their own specific area protocols, information and emergency procedures management. Some areas link expertise of Police, Coastguard, Rescue Services and Medical Personnel. Procedures must be confirmed locally and means of communication established to gain advice and guidance on emergency procedures prior to commencement of the trip.


c)   A system of rescuing divers from the water to the vessel must be in place in conjunction with the vessels current hazard management plan.


d)   NZUA has a toll free line that gives access to medical personnel that can assist in a diving emergency. Phone 0800 4 DES 111 (0800 4 337 111). Other emergency contact information 111 Emergency Services, Local Emergency Medical Services Providers (EMS).


9.         REFERENCES


          Maritime Transport Act 1994 and subsequent amendments


MSA Rules Part 22 Collision Prevention

Contains information relating to ship operations and applies to New Zealand vessels that are commercial and recreational. Also refer rules 27(d) or (e) of the International Collision Regulations. Also refer Regulation 7 (1)(c) of the Water Recreational Regulations 1979 requires that vessels proceed at a speed of not more than 5 knots when within 200 meters of a vessel flying “A” flag. This regulation gives statutory effect of the “A” Flag for protection of divers. It is emphasized that the vessel flying “A” flag must, whenever necessary, comply fully with the Collision Regulations.


The Water Recreational Regulations are to be superceded by MSA Rules part 91. Please replace any copies of the Water (refer 91.6).


MSA Rules Part 31B Crewing, Watch keeping, Offshore, Coastal and Restricted Limits (non fishing vessels)

Contains information relating to ships minimum crewing and watch-keeping



MSA Rules Part 35 Training and Exams

Contains training framework for industry specific training for masters of specific types of vessels.


MSA Rules Part 40A Design Construction and Equipment Passenger Ships that are not SOLAS ships

Appendix 8 contains generic and specific list of equipment for vessels being used for diving operations. This appendix is the code of practice for the Safety of Boats of 6 meters or less engaged in Recreational Diving Vessels (Safe Operational Plan)


Department of Labour Guidelines for Occupational Diving

To assist in meeting the requirements of the Heath and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and the Health and Safety in Employment Regulations 1995.


NZUA Code of Practice for Compressor Operations etc.

Contains information on the installation, operation, air purity requirements and maintenance of compressors used for diving operations, as well as information on testing requirements for scuba cylinders and Dangerous Goods Regulations (Class 2 Gases) 1980.


NZU Master of a Small Commercial Dive Boat Syllabus

Contains learning outcomes and information on subjects and practical training requirements to hold this MSA approved Certificate of Competency.


The DES Emergency handbook

The first aid manual of the diving emergency services DES (contact NZUA).


Dive Safe handbook

Contains information on general diving safety and boat diving tips and practices.


Specialty Diving Manual

Manuals are available from many of the diver training agencies operating within New Zealand. These include, however are not limited to, manuals on Open Water Diving, Rescue Diving and Dive Leadership (contact NZUA).


NZU Safety information pack

Includes appropriate information to assist in operating a safe fun dive vessel.


Small Boats Program Pamphlet

Contains information on the New Zealand Underwater Master of a Small Commercial Dive Boat Certificate of Competency and includes a flow chart that demonstrates the path way to becoming a Diving Activities Supervisor.


MSCDB Trainers Contact List

Contains nation wide contacts of people and facilities registered with NZUA who offer training and advise for persons who may wish to seek training as a Master of a Small Commercial Dive Boat or a Diving Activities Supervisor.


Diving Activities Supervisor Outlines & Syllabus

Contains Learning outcomes, syllabus plus information on grand-parenting and recognition of prior learning and experience.



This Code of Practice Published By


New Zealand Underwater Association Inc.

PO Box 875, Auckland

Ph: 09 623 3252   Fax: 09 623 3523  -