RDU courses

Please note the Research Diving Unit is temporarily closed. Courses will therefore not be offered until further notice.

Commercial diver training | What does training entail? | When are the courses? | Contact us

Commercial diver training

The most popular Diving Course presented by the Research Diving Unit is to train and qualify Class V Scientific Divers, in accordance with the requirements of the Department of Labour. This is the minimum qualification required by anyone wishing to take part in underwater research or other diving-related work using SCUBA for a research institute, museum or University. The Department of Labour does not recognize sport diver qualifications (NAUI, CMAS, PADI, and BSAC).

Class V divers are qualified in the use of SCUBA to a depth of 20 m where no decompression is required. Should researchers require diving beyond this depth, an upgrade to a Class IV Commercial Diver is required. Class IV Divers are qualified in the use of SCUBA to a depth of 40 m where surface or inwater decompression of less than 20 minutes is required. This also requires access to a chamber.

The RDU also offers Nitrox courses. Upon successful completion of the course, the Class IV Diver/Supervisor Permit is endorsed for Nitrox diving. Nitrox is oxygen-enriched air. The percentage of oxygen can be increased from 21 % and tailored to the Diver's requirements of depth and bottom time. The result is longer no-decompression times as the nitrogen content of the breathing mix is reduced. This also reduces the susceptibility to nitrogen narcosis. Research projects requiring repetitive diving operations benefit as the lower nitrogen loading reduces the decompression penalty on subsequent dives. This aspect is particularity attractive to Scientific Divers, as extended bottom times are often required to complete sampling tasks.

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What does training entail?

The aim of the training is to provide instruction and practical application of diving techniques needed by divers engaged in diving operations.


Water competence

Diving course candidates are first registered as Learner Divers. Because candidates need to be strong swimmers, they are required to pass a watermanship evaluation / swimming competency test before being selected for the course.

Practical and theoretical training

Instruction in topics covering all aspects of SCUBA diving is provided which meet the Commercial Diving Regulations Training Syllabus and are grouped into modules. Each module aims to develop a degree of competence in the Learner Diver in a particular aspect of the diving operation, equipment and/or procedures. Training comprises lectures on diving theory, and exercises in practical skills. The latter includes both training in-water (diving skills practiced in the swimming pool and open water), and training how to use dive-related equipment in the RDU (e.g., compressors).

RDU courses

Learner Divers are expected to demonstrate their competence by performance, explanation and description of specific procedures. The whole content of the course must be covered and competence in each part displayed before a Learner Diver is considered competent. The lectures are conducted on the Nelson Mandela University south campus, where the RDU is situated. The pool practical sessions are conducted at the Aquatics Center swimming pool on the south campus. Open-water training commences once all candidates have acquired an appropriate level of competence in the pool. These dives are conducted in Algoa Bay, the Port of Port Elizabeth and a variety of quarries, dams and reservoirs around Port Elizabeth.


A minimum of 10 hours underwater time is accumulated on the Class V Scientific Diver course where after the candidates must pass practical and theoretical examinations on the course content, moderated by the Department of Labour. Divers upgrading to a Class IV Commercial Diver accumulate an additional 5 hours of underwater time, specifically in tasks requiring lift bags (both open & closed < 1 ton), dry suits (including hazmat), full face masks (18, Exo, AGA, Nira) and hard wire and acoustic communications.

On completion of the course requirements, which also includes receiving a certificate of fitness from a diving medical doctor registered with the Department of Labour, and certificate for First Aid training, candidates are registered as Class V or IV Divers. Finally, they are issued with a government Diving Permit. All work-related diving is done in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (85) of 1993 and the Diving Regulations of 2009.

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When are the courses?

The Research Diving Unit aims to conduct Diving Courses each year, during the March or June recess over a period of two weeks, full time.

Contact us

Should you require any information regarding the up-coming training courses, please email Anton Cloete.



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Contact information
Mrs Liza Rishworth
Research Assistant
Tel: 27 41 504 2852