How to Know the Maritime Laws and Regulations before Planning a Diving Trip

Know the law

Divers must obey the law in the countries where they dive. Some countries have very strict and specific laws regarding the use of underwater breathing apparatus, while others have none. It’s important to know what the laws are and to abide by them. It is always a mistake to assume that the laws of your own country apply when diving elsewhere. If in doubt, ask the local dive centre.

For example, the United Kingdom has specific rules about diving around wrecks that have been designated as war graves. Diving on or near protected and historic wreck sites is banned altogether. Any material that is raised from underwater must be reported to the Receiver of Wreck. UK law also states that professional diving instructors must be equipped with a second completely independent air source and must be under the supervision of a responsible person at the surface who acts as a diving supervisor.

Many countries have areas designated as marine reserves. Divers that visit these areas must fulfill the local requirements regarding the notification of their intentions. They must supply identification by lodging personal details with the local authority that administers the marine reserve.

Some European countries have very specific laws regarding the certification level of divers and the dives they can do. Recompression chambers or private medical insurance may be compulsory.

Egypt not only has rules about who is certified to dive in its national marine parks, but it also specifies a minimum schedule of safety equipment that every diver must be equipped with. This includes a diving light, a visual surface signalling device, such as a flag or safety sausage, and a whistle. The maximum depths to which people are allowed to dive are specified.

Many countries issue a permit to dive, which is, in effect, a direct tax. In other countries, it is normal to pay a custom fee to the local chief of the village that owns the reef you wish to dive on. In the Maldives, a very popular diving area, there is a sweeping 30-m (100-foot) maximum depth limit to diving, and fish feeding is banned. In Florida, feeding fish, except for the purposes of harvesting (fishing), is also against the law. Experts will often work alongside an environmental law practice to make sure that natural habitats are protected for a balanced ecosystem.

Boat law

Every country has laws and regulations regarding the use of boats. They can be as simple as a limit on the number of people a vessel is licensed to carry. Others are more complicated, such as getting permission to leave port that includes a declaration of the number and identities of those on board and the intended destination of the vessel.

In territorial waters, a vessel will fly the flag of the country in which it is registered at its stern and a courtesy flag of the country it is visiting at its masthead.

In Europe and in most parts of the world, a vessel that is escorting divers is required to fly a pennant known as the alpha flag, or ‘A’ flag, while the divers are actually in the water. This is a white pennant with a blue rear half and is of a specified size and displayed at a particular height. It tells other vessels to keep clear.

In U.S.-administered territories, a red flag with a white diagonal strip is the flag used to indicate that there are divers down in the water. To avoid confusion, some boats will fly both flags.

Local law rules

Local operators will always know the local laws and want to operate within them. You should be guided by them and never flout the law because it does not agree with the law in your own country. You should be aware that most countries have a minimum age limit for scuba diving.

Filed Under: Sports & Fitness


About the Author: Cody Riffel is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo. She likes to write on variety of topics, whatever interests her. She also likes to share what she learns over the Internet and her day-to-day life.

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