I am passing along some thoughts on Diver Support requirements for the Polar Security Cutter from a former USCG diver, Michael W. Carr,
Divers are assigned to all Coast Guard Icebreakers, but this operational requirement has, in the past, been an afterthought. Dive lockers were cramped, not designed to support diving operations, and hampered equipment maintenance. Additionally, Coast Guard Icebreakers have rarely carried recompression chambers, even though these ships operate thousands of miles from diving medical assistance. I have not seen the specifications for these new vessels but I hope this new design incorporates DIVING features, and there is a DIVING OFFICER assigned to the design and construction team. Listed below are features which should be on these new Coast Guard Icebreakers:
1. Doublelock Navy approved recompression chamber.
2. Full suite of Surface Supplied Diving Systems, capable of supporting a US Navy MK21 Diving System.
3. Two independent Air Compressors capable of supporting Recompression Chamber Operations, Surface Supported Diving Systems, and SCUBA Operations.
4. A dedicated Diving equipment repair and maintenance space.
5. A dedicated space for a Diving Medical Corpsman.
6. Direct Access to the outside (weather) deck and diving station, with necessary heat and lighting for day/night operations.
7. Necessary equipment to support both hot water suit and dry suit operations.
8. Systems for supporting hydraulic and pneumatic tool operations.
9. Equipment necessary to support ship husbandry operations (propellor, sea chest, transducer, etc maintenance, and repair).
10 Dedicated meeting/training room for Dive Team planning and operations.
11. A Navy approved diving stage and crane to lower and raise divers (In the past divers conducted diving operations from the ice alongside the ship, or from a small boat tied alongside the icebreaker.
12. And finally: NO overboard suctions or discharges in the area of the diving station.
We need to think far into the future, ensuring these vessels meet both present needs, and the expansion of responsibilities as the Arctic and Antartic change due to our rapid climate changes. Coast Guard Divers assigned to Icebreakers are likely to be tasked with many more missions repairing other vessels and offshore structures, oil spill response actions, maritime security, and a myriad of other tasks. Lets really think this through and get it right. Bring on Divers with experience and knowledge to ensure we make these new icebreakers state of the art. Let’s examine icebreakers from all the other countries which operate in Arctic and Antarctic regions, and incorporate that knowledge.
Michael W. Carr is a Coast Guard Academy graduate (1977) and attended US Navy Diving & Salvage Officer training while in the Coast Guard. He then served as Diving Officer on US Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team Dive Team for 6 years. After 10 years in the Coast Guard, Carr went into the US Army Watercraft community. He retired from Army in 2015.