Award-winning subsea training and trials facility, The Underwater Centre, expanded its international reach when it welcomed a team of Finnish coastguards and commercial divers recently.
The group of 10 included four commercial divers as well as six members of the coastguard. They are now fully trained offshore divers after completing the HSE Surface Supplied Top-Up course, as well as a First Aid at Work training course at the Fort William-based facility.
The Finnish Coastguard has recently purchased a new DPV – dynamic positioning vessel – and so they needed to upgrade their existing certification to be able to dive offshore. There is no formal certification for offshore diving in Finland due to the lack of this type of diving carried out there, but the team was required to have a formal, approved certification.
The DPV will be multi-purpose, but its operations will mainly involve sea rescue, assisting the police and recovery work. It will also assist the Finnish Environmental Services in the recovery of fuel from wrecked ships.
All experienced commercial divers, the men were already trained to the Finnish equivalent of the HSE surface supplied certification, which is accepted as a pre-requisite for attending the HSE Top-Up course.
Kalle Virtanen, Instructor from the Luksia College, Helsinki, arranged for the men to complete the courses at The Underwater Centre and chose it based on its reputation and the calibre of training it provides.
The Underwater Centre in Fort William, and its sister centre in Tasmania, have trained divers from many countries around the world, including Angola, Holland, Russia and Iran as its reputation as the world’s leading commercial diving and ROV pilot technician training centre goes from strength to strength.
General Manager at the Centre, Steve Ham, said: “As demand from industry for our services increases, I am glad that we can deliver great training and deliver a course to meet their requirements.
“Due to our facilities, location and personnel, we are pleased to have been able to accommodate and teach divers, in some cases in their own language, from other countries.
“We were impressed with the professionalism of the Finnish divers and look forward to welcoming more of their compatriots in the future.”
Gulf of Finland Coast Guard District Diving Officer Arthur Heickell, who works for the Finnish Border Guard, attended the course.
He said: “We are very pleased with the course and how it’s been run – we have thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
“The instructors are very professional and have been very helpful and patient in explaining the terminology and technical diving terms. It has been great for the team to have such dedicated training – the training in Finland is significantly longer and the diver training is mixed with other elements, so it’s good to be on a course that is so focused.
“The Underwater Centre has an excellent reputation, and the HSE has a good, clear system of standards, and a clear procedure for getting the HSE top up certification, so this was an excellent choice for us.”
The Underwater Centre is a purpose built training facility which incorporates an extensive pier complex including four dive stations, classrooms, workshops and decompression chambers.
With accommodation and additional classrooms based at the landward end of the pier, The Underwater Centre is set up to provide its students with the skills and experience to succeed in their new careers, and continue providing the subsea industry with the workforce that it needs.