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!

 

My Top 3 EMEA Dives – Part 3: The Zenobia, Cyprus (Guest blog by Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler)

In this article, guest blogger Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler concludes her list of top 3 dives in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Missed the previous articles? Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2.


Dive Site: Zenobia Wreck

Location: Larnaca, Cyprus
Description: Wreck
Length: 174 meters
Depth: 18 – 42 meters

The Zenobia wreck is one of the top wreck dives on the planet, originally a roll on-roll off (RO-RO) ferry, not unlike the ferries that service the Dover-Calais route between the UK and France.

She sank in 42 meters of water in Larnaca, Cyprus on her maiden voyage in June, 1980 after departing from Malmo, Sweden.  Her final destination was Tartous, Syria but she never made it; after just a short while at sea her captain noticed severe steering problems. Investigations showed that the ballast tanks on the port side were filling with water, and there was nothing they could do to stop it.

Continue reading “My Top 3 EMEA Dives – Part 3: The Zenobia, Cyprus (Guest blog by Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler)”

My Top 3 EMEA Dives – Part 1: Million Hope Wreck (Guest blog by Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler)

“So what’s your favorite dive site?” asked a freshly scuba addicted student yesterday.
“Ummm… That’s a really hard question!” I’d replied.
He looked puzzled, “Why?”

Why indeed. I am a PADI Instructor, as are many of you. I am sure you get asked about your favorite dive site all of the time too – don’t you? What is your answer? How do you choose? How is it possible to remember every amazing experience underwater and then pick only one? It is almost always impossible. Diving is incredible in so many ways. You can enjoy a wreck dive as much as a wildlife dive, but we love them each for very different reasons.

So I thought I would write about my top 3 dive sites in this three-part blog series. Surely I can narrow it down to 3!

Dive Site 1: Million Hope Wreck

Location: Nabq Sharm El Sheikh
Description: Wreck
Length: 130 meters
Depth: 0-30 meters

Million Hope

This wreck has it all. It’s huge, it’s in shallow water, it’s covered in coral and teeming with life. This wreck is rarely dived due to its proximity to the shore line, and notoriously choppy waters make it hard to get there. However, if you are lucky enough to dive it you will be in for a real treat. It took me three trips to Egypt and many attempts by RIB before we had the right conditions to dive the Million Hope Wreck!

Why I love it…

Some of the ship is still visible above the surface but the majority is underwater. The shallow depth makes this wreck one of the most colourful and vibrant wrecks that I have ever seen. The traffic of fish was thick and the nudibranch were out in force. Beautiful.

It’s a big wreck! It is possible to get round it in one dive, although the use of nitrox to extend bottom time will make it a lot easier. This wreck sank in 1996 whilst heading for Cyprus. It was carrying fertilizer high in phosphates; the cargo had to be removed following an algae bloom, but there is still lots to see. The cranes that lie on the bottom create overhangs and there is even a Caterpillar crane at 22 meters; a bizarre addition to the dive that’s covered in colourful soft corals. The rotten seat and flooded controls are contrasted by the many scorpion, lion and glassfish that have made their home there.

Million Hope Wreck

White broccoli coral hangs from the ship’s stern but unfortunately the prop and rudder have been removed, leaving a void that the coral struggles to fill. It is one of the places on this ship that makes you feel very, very small! The hull is covered by enormous fire sponges and pajama slugs, as well as there being numerous starfish and pipefish clinging to it. There is a rotary telephone and a toilet seat in the sand surrounded by raspberry coral. There are penetration points everywhere; crew quarters, illuminated by various portholes; a work room complete with spanners on wall hooks, and where a piece of cloth still tied around an old radiator reminds us that this was a working ship.

You can also see the two boilers and twin six-cylinder engines before going up to make your safety stop. My “safety stop” lasted for more than 15 minutes! It was so beautiful between 3 and 5 meters that I could have stayed there forever.  The Million hope is a photographer’s dream – so full of natural light. The contrast of this huge rusty beast next to the multi-colored coral is one of the most breathtaking things I have ever seen.

Million Hope Wreck

If you’ve enjoyed this article, watch this space for Part 2 next week!


Alexandra DimitriouAlexandra Dimitriou-Engeler is a PADI Dive Center owner in Agia Napa, Cyprus. She became a diver in 1992 and received her bachelor’s degree in Oceanography at Plymouth University in 2003. Her love of the ocean has always been her driving force, and this has led to the natural progression of becoming a diving instructor in 2005. She is currently a PADI staff instructor and owner of Scuba Monkey Ltd and is writing a series of guest blogs for PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Zenobia Week

zenobia-week

The Zenobia wreck sits in 42 meters of water just outside the Port of Larnaca, Cyprus. She has been voted one of the top ten wrecks worldwide and divers from all walks of life can experience her on a variety of different levels. What makes her so access able? The sheer size of this RO-RO ferry means that although she is in relatively deep water, she sank on her port side and the shallowest part of the wreck can be reached after just 17 meters. That means that even entry level divers can enjoy one of the largest underwater vessels in the world, while still providing an arena that even the most seasoned tech diver will tingle over. That is very special.

During my time working as a PADI dive Instructor in Cyprus, I would visit this metal giant weekly and it was an absolute joy to watch people’s reactions as the wreck came into view while descending into the blue. Wide eyes and happy facial features were on every diver, their breathing increasing ever so slightly as their excitement of the upcoming dives slowly reveled themselves with each deepening meter.

Now I am the PADI Regional Manager for Cyprus, my love of this wreck is still at its peak. I have dived her over 100 times and yet my anticipation of the new adventures I will have still makes me wake up before my alarm goes off, ready to take the plunge.

It was no surprise to me when I discovered that the Cyprus Tourism Organization (CTO) had a special Zenobia Week in store for us in June 2014. I was given the opportunity to speak at one of the Zenobia promotional conferences, as I am extremely involved in underwater conservation and a healthy dive market.  I learned a lot about the development of artifical reefs in Cyprus, the marine life at the Zenobia and I learned about diving tourism and its prospects. I also met a lot of likeminded people with a common goal in mind – to make Cyprus a diving destination of excellence. We all know Zenobia is awesome – and this promotional week is planned to run annually by the CTO. Adventure tourism is the most fun kind, in my opinion – so walking around Larnaca seeing all the child artists’ impressions and creations of the Zenobia on the sea front was a beautiful thing to see. The fact that the CTO are actively educating their students in the wonders of the underwater world at such a young age gives me high hopes for the project’s success. To coin an old but true saying “The children are the future”. Nothing is truer than this when it comes to our future generations being able to experience beautiful marine environments as we do.

 

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