PADI’s role in UK Heritage and Sea Use Issues

What PADI does in the background to ensure the least amount of licence burden in terms of diver access to our deeply loved wrecks and for our recreational diving activities in general.

There are thousands of wreck sites in UK Territorial Waters, caused by a long and busy history of sea-faring, inclement weather and human error. Historic England Archive alone, contains over 40,000 records of documented losses, seabed archaeological features and wreck sites. If you look at a plot of wrecks sites against a UK map, you get a hugely accurate coastal outline including major estuaries.

This provides fantastic diving opportunities but also raises issues of safety, preservation and protection, accessibility, and sustainable and respectful resource use. That’s why PADI alongside other key stakeholders (including BSAC) participates in committees, meetings and consultations with the relevant authorities both UK wide and in the devolved administrations, to best address these issues.

PADI’s role

PADI has worked hard over the years to represent the views and interests of the recreational diving community.  PADI sits on various stakeholder committees such as the Joint Nautical Archaeological Policy Committee to keep abreast of changing regulations and engages in many and varied heritage consultations and meetings to ensure our best interests are considered.  We work with the authorities (e.g. Ministry of Defence, Historic Scotland, Historic England, CADW, Crown Estates, MMO, MCA and others) to ensure diver access where possible, and to prevent (sometimes unintended) regulatory consequences that could inhibit recreational diving activities.

For example, the MMO had originally intended to make use of a lift bag a licensable activity, which some in the archaeological community had presumed would afford better protection to vulnerable historic sites.  We were able to negotiate use of a lift bag for smaller and contemporaneous objects, without the need for a licence, to ensure diver training, litter picks and recovery of diving equipment could continue without the need for a licence, whilst still maintaining the need for a licence for large scale commercial recovery or recovery of historic items.

Recently we have been working with the Crown Estate to clarify when seabed survey licences would be needed, and to ease the licence burden for recreational divers, compared to commercial operators.

 Summary

PADI advocates a look,don’t touch approach to visiting wreck sites, leaving the site in tact for others to enjoy.  We support in site preservation where possible again for future generations of divers to enjoy, and always advocate for responsible diver access, conceding that some of the most vulnerable (and unsafe, sometimes due to unexploded ordnance) sites may be off limits to us from time-to-time. Generally a licence isn’t needed to dive most of the wreck sites in the UK on a look,don’t touch basis, and licences aren’t needed for diver training activities.

For dive centres needing to place marker buoys for long periods, a self-service marine licence is available for markers placed for more than 28 days. If the marker is placed for less than 24 hours, no marine licence is needed, and for placements between 24hours and 28 days, you need to notify the MMO by completing an exemption notification form.

If you’re engaged in archaeologically activities, then you’ll need to consider a range of licencing obligations.

Here is a little reminder of just how beautiful the wreck diving  around the United Kingdom is. Located off Scotland’s Northern most tip, Orkney is home to Scapa Flow – a huge natural harbour. Here, in 1919 the entire German high sea’s fleet collectively scuttled. With 7 wrecks remaining to dive – this is one for the bucket list!

 

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