BEWARE Diver Below
With Summer on its way its great to see people getting outdoors and enjoying Port Phillip Bay, whether underwater or on top, on SCUBA, Snorkel, Jet ski or Boat...
We felt now is a great time to remind all water users of the rules surrounding the use of Dive Flags.
In Victoria, any vessel supporting divers must always display signals to inform other vessel users. All vessel operators should steer well clear of vessels and floats displaying these signals.
During daylight hours an international Code Flag 'A', alpha Flag must be displayed from a vessel as soon as divers enter the water and taken down as soon as all divers are safely back on board. This flag must be at least 750mm wide and 600mm high. It should be placed high above a vessel to ensure full visibility for vessels approaching from any angle.
When diving from shore it is also advisable to tow a float displaying an international Code Flag 'A', alpha Flag at all times.
At night times, vessels must show the international light signal for a vessel restricted in its ability to Maneuver being three lights in a vertical line, red on top, white in the middle and red on the bottom, these lights must be visible from all angles.
The blue and white Alpha flag or "A" Flag is the recognised flag in Australia, some divers may unknowingly use the red and white american version, although locally this is non compliant it should be treated with the same caution as the blue and white version.
Unless ascending directly up an anchor or shotline be sure to launch an Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) at or before 6m. Many boat operates may not be familiar with these devices, they are simply a high vis float to signal that a diver is ascending (see image below) , please keep clear of SMB's. It is advisable that every diver carries an SMB at all times, although your intention may be to ascend up the anchor line it is not always an option, an SMB will ensure your safety if the unexpected should happen. Like wise if you surface some distance away from your vessel an SMB and Whistle are invaluable signalling devices.
To ensure safety and enjoyment It is important that Boat Operators ,Personal Watercraft (PWC) Operators and Water Skiers understand that they must not exceed 5 knots within 100 meters of any vessel, buoy or structure displaying a "Diver Below Flag" or Light signals showing there limited ability to maneuver. Likewise it is equally important that divers are sensible, ensuring they stay within 100m of their buoy or vessel esspecially when at shallow depths, ensure they dive in appropriate areas and do not impede the amenity of other water users.
Whether you are under the water or on top, stay safe and be sure to share the water courteously!