Sunday, March 01, 2009

Diving Season Opens for the Malaysian East Coast

Another great diving year starting!

On average the local (Singaporean) scuba diving community has seen 1 fatality per annum going back some 8 years that I have been involved.

I hope 2009 goes by without any.

Some of the main reasons I have seen for these accidents and incidents are:

1. The dive professional is distracted. Personally or otherwise. Which should not be the case.

2. The customer knows best and does what he/she wants. Diver is distracted. Which should also not be the case though I've had my share of funky divers.

3. Cheap is good!!!! Forcing operators to cut corners at times to pander to the 'market.' RWYS.

4. Environmental conditions. The risk is assessed by both Instructor AND Students (this is taught to you during your theory lessons before you hit the open sea) and students have a right to request for a change in dive sites. A balancing factor here is that exposure to different conditions 'trains' the student divers to be congnizant of differences and may be a good opportunity to learn how to handle themselves in those conditions.

For the newbs going into the sport here is some truly FREE advice. By PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) standards :

Ratios: 1 instructor to 8 adult students for Open, Advanced, Rescue, most Specialties and Dive Master courses. Ratios drop dramatically with age of student falling below 16 and 12 respectively to 4 and 2 students to 1 instructor.

Standards: For Open Water (where virtually all fatalities occur) the Instructor must be present in the water with you for at least the first 4 open sea dives which includes many of the skills you should have practiced in the pool or some confined body of water. There are 20 skills you need to master. Not 6 or 7 as some schools / resorts claim. The Dive Master (lower level then Instructor) may lead the underwater tour portions of Dives 2, 3 and 4 but under supervision of the Instructor:

"Certified and new/renewed PADI Divemasters who are in Active status are authorized to:

1. Independently guide Open Water Diver/Scuba Diver students on the tour portion of Open Water Diver course Training Dives 2 through 4, at a ratio of two student divers per certified divemaster.

2. Accompany Open Water Diver/ Scuba Diver students under the indirect supervision of a PADI Instructor:

a. during surface swims to and from the entry/exit point.
b. during the navigational exercises.
c. with the group, either on the surface or underwater, while the instructor conducts a skill, such as an ascent, with an individual student diver or buddy team.

3. Conduct any subsequent dives for Discover Scuba Diving participants, at a ratio of 2:1, if
insured, after the participants have satisfactorily completed the first dive under the supervision
of a PADI Instructor.

4. Conduct the PADI Discover Local Diving experience, (provided the divemaster meets insurance requirements).

5. Conduct the PADI Discover Snorkeling program, (provided the divemaster meets insurance

6. Conduct the PADI Scuba Review program for certified Open Water Divers, divers with higher certifications. or for PADI Scuba Divers who want only to refresh their skills (provided the divemaster meets insurance requirements).

7. Accompany student divers during training dives for the PADI Adventures in Diving program, Specialty Diver courses, or the Rescue Diver course.

8. Generally supervise both training and nontraining-related activities by assisting divers and student divers in the planning, organizing and direction of dives.

9. Assist a Teaching status PADI Instructor in the open water training of divers. The allowable
student diver-to-instructor ratio increases by four additional student divers for each certified, renewed PADI Divemaster for all PADI programs and courses, unless stated otherwise by that
course/program’s standards.

For the PADI Open Water Diver/Scuba Diver course, the allowable student diver-to-instructor
ratio increases by two additional student divers for each certified, renewed PADI Divemaster, to a maximum of 12 student divers to one instructor.

10. Assist a Teaching status PADI Instructor in the confined water training of divers. Use of
certified, renewed PADI Divemasters increases the allowable student diver-to-instructor
ratio in confined water by four additional student divers per divemaster for all courses,
unless stated otherwise by that course/program’s standards. [End Quote]"

For new divers, buddying is especially important. Responsibly buddying on all dives anywhere in the world acts as an insurance policy in most cases. Collective stupidity excluded.

Fortunately or unfortunately, regulation by Singaporean or even Malaysian authorities are sorely lacking. Not that they would matter for the 4 reasons given far above.

For a sport such as scuba diving - the real value add is in the thorough teaching and application of knowledge and skills learnt. Not the price. Your life depends on it.

And if you do not like PADI there are other schools such as NAUI, SSI, IANTD, SDI (NKOTB) and some half a dozen other certifying agencies. Check on the syllabus offered by each agency. An email or two should get you the information you require prior to signing up for a course anywhere in the world.

The shop/operator where you made your enquiries should be able to tell you which type of certification they offer. If they can't you should just turn around and walk out because it is like asking a car salesman what make of car it is and he/she replies: 'I don't know.'

Don't ask me, even though I teach, as I would like to retain impartiality in standards. Ask the certifying agencies listed above or google it.

Learn well because once you are certified you are permitted to dive without a divemaster or instructor pretty much anywhere in the world.

All that said. Accidents still occur. Hence the word 'accident.'

Statistically though, which is cold comfort once something bad occurs, you stand a higher chance getting maimed crossing the road or flying or driving or eating something which your body disagrees with. To put things in perspective, accounting for the road deaths in Singapore, I'd have to dive for some 300 years before something happens to me.

Welcome to the underwater world!! Dive safe.

1 comment:

Vikram, Son of Bala said...

how many singaporeans have scuba diving licences? just need a rough estimate