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IMCA revises saturation (bell) diving systems inspection guidance

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Jane Bugler

Jane Bugler

The International Marine Contractors Association’s (IMCA) Diving Equipment Systems Inspection Guidance Note (DESIGN) for Saturation (Bell) Diving Systems (IMCA D 024) has now been revised and updated to incorporate equipment improvements and changed operating practices since its first publication in 2001 as well as expanding the sections for the hyperbaric rescue unit, its launch system and its interfaces with the saturation diving system.

“There is also a new section for the life support package (LSP), ” explains IMCA’s Technical Director, Jane Bugler. “The format has also been changed slightly to improve ease of use and provide better referencing.  It is intended that this document should be used in conjunction with IMCA D 018 – Code of practice on the initial and periodic examination, testing and certification of diving plant and equipment. Cross-references to this Code are provided where appropriate.

DESIGN for Saturation (Bell) Diving Systems has a long and proud history. In the early 1980s, in order to give some guidance to the offshore industry, IMCA’s predecessor the Association of Offshore Diving Contractors (AODC) started to produce a number of reference documents, standards and guidance notes. This process continued through the 1980s. It was clear, however, that there was still considerable confusion with some diving systems being ‘audited’ several times a year by different clients, each of whose representatives had slightly different interpretations as to what was required.

AODC published document reference AODC 052 – Diving Equipment Systems Inspection Guidance Note (DESIGN) – in February 1989 that sought to clarify any interpretations necessary and to identify a common standard that could be applied by all parties during an inspection. It was intended for use offshore in the UK sector of the North Sea but in the absence of other guidance it became a standard reference in many parts of the world, particularly where there were no specific national regulations.

Subsequently AODC expanded and revised the document which was re-issued as Rev. 1 in February 1995. This more comprehensive document covered both air and saturation diving systems. It was still based on the requirements of the UK sector of the North Sea but was adopted by many clients and diving contractors world-wide. Some users, however, found it to be complex and difficult to use.

With the increasingly international nature of the offshore diving industry, IMCA revised AODC 052  Rev. 1 in order to simplify it, clarify any anomalies which had shown up and adapt it for international use, rather than restrict it to North Sea use. It was also decided to split it into separate documents, one for surface diving (IMCA D 023 published 2000) and the other for saturation diving (IMCA D 024 published 2001).

Current update
“Subsequently documents were issued in 2006 for surface supplied mixed gas diving
(IMCA D 037) and mobile/portable surface supplied diving (IMCA D 040), ” explains Jane Bugler.  “IMCA D 024 for saturation diving systems was revised and updated to Rev. 1 in 2013 and to Rev. 2 in 2014. At that time we recognised that it was no longer adequate to simply have a small section in this document to cover hyperbaric evacuation.

“The latest revision therefore includes updated sections for the hyperbaric rescue unit, its launch system and its interfaces with the saturation diving system as well as the life support package (LSP).

“It was recognised that any hyperbaric reception facility (HRF) forming part of the hyperbaric evacuation system (HES) would be likely to be in a different physical location to the equipment covered by IMCA D 024 and would thus need a separate DESIGN document (IMCA D 053).”

IMCA D 024 can be downloaded free of charge by members and non-members alike from the IMCA website at www.imca-int.com. Printed copies are available from publications@imc-int.com at £10.00 for members and £20.00 for non-members.

Further information on IMCA and its work on behalf of its 970+ member companies in over 60 countries is available from www.imca-int.comand imca@imca-int.com. The association has LinkedIn and Facebook groups and its Twitter handle is @IMCAint
About IMCA

  • IMCA is an international association with well over 970 members in over 60 countries representing offshore, marine and underwater engineering companies. IMCA has four technical divisions, covering marine/specialist vessel operations, offshore diving, hydrographic survey and remote systems and ROVs, plus geographic sections for the Asia-Pacific, Central & North America, Europe & Africa, Middle East & India and South America regions. As well as a core focus on safety, the environment, competence and training, IMCA seeks to promote its members’ common interests, to resolve industry-wide issues and to provide an authoritative voice for its members.
  • IMCA Vision & Strategy. As a result of work and collective input in 2013, IMCA has redefined its stated core purpose to be “Improving performance in the marine contracting industry”. To achieve this goal, IMCA’s Vision & Strategy has been devised with two elements in mind: Core activities and ways of working. Targets and objectives against which the association will measure progress in 2014 have been established.


  • We are more than happy to expand on this in tailor-made articles – just put us to the test, email judithpatten@jppr.uk.com or phone her on +44(0)20 8241 1912 to explain what you would like covered, length, and deadline.
  • IMCA publishes some 200 guidance notes and technical reports – many are available for free downloading by members and non-members alike. These have been developed over the years and are extensively distributed. They are a definition of what IMCA stands for, including widely recognised diving and ROV codes of practice, DP documentation, marine good practice guidance, the Common Marine Inspection Document (CMID) – now available electronically as eCMID, safety recommendations, outline training syllabi and the IMCA competence scheme guidance. In addition to the range of printed guidance documents, IMCA also produces safety promotional materials, circulates information notes and distributes safety flashes.

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