The Manned Underwater Vehicles industry has evolved since the launch of DSV ALVIN in 1964 and the establishment of tourist passenger submersibles in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The emergence of the tourist passenger submersible sector in 1993 prompted the US Coast Guard to regulate commercial marine operations in the interest of public safety through NVIC 5-93. The rules were designed specifically for submersibles selling seats to members of the general public. To ensure public safety, the USCG helped define safeguards for those participants. Submersibles owned by the government, research institutions and corporations; or submersibles used for purposes other than selling rides to members of the general public, were not wholly addressed because growth in that sector was unforeseen. Almost 25 years after its release, the industry is regulated across all sectors of MUV operations by definitions established for the operation of a narrow segment of the industry, the tourism submersibles. However, construction over the past 23 years is 18% tourism submersibles, 8% government and 7% research. The remaining 67% of vessels, fall into an “other” category which does not have adequate definition. This white papers proposes that the Marine Technology Society committee on Manned Underwater Vehicles conduct a study for an updated Manned Underwater Vehicle Operations Safety Guideline with broad participation of the MUV stakeholders; International MUV industry members, Marine Technology Society, ASME PVHO, ABS, DNVGL, US Coast Guard and Navy. The challenge is to find the correct balance of regulatory control and commercial freedom to promote commercial growth while having a robust regulatory framework to manage the various concepts.
Paper published with permission.