New Zealand Readying Safety Guide for Shark Cage Diving Operations

Maritime New Zealand has recently provided guidelines for safety in various kinds of adventure activities, such as jet boating and rafting, commercial kayaking and canoeing, and commercial white water boarding.

A new, comprehensive safety guideline is coming soon from Maritime New Zealand for companies that offer shark cage diving off the country's coasts. The regulatory agency released interim guidelines in December 2012 covering safety of operations and will combine that in April 2013 with conservation aspects of the excursions.

The interim guidelines say every vessel used for commercial shark cage diving operations should have its structure and stability approved by a recognized naval architect, and every new vessel used for commercial shark cage diving operations should be constructed under survey. The cage's design should be approved by an engineer who is a chartered professional engineer registered with the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand, and the approval should cover the cage's lifting and recovery mechanism, they say.

An appendix in the guidelines covers cage design and construction. It says cages ideally should be made of "thick wall, large diameter marine grade aluminum with certified welds, and to a well-engineered frame design, that is, with sufficient bracing to form a rigid and very strong structure." The cage should have welded flotation chambers of sufficient buoyancy to ensure it is unsinkable. Cages also should have raised bars around the three exposed sides on top "to prevent any possibility of a shark getting over the top of the cage, and vertical bar spacing should be sufficiently close to provide good structural integrity," they state.

The agency also released safety guidelines recently for commercial swimming operations, commercial kayaking and canoeing operations, and for managing risks involving alcohol and drug use by customers of jet boat and rafting companies.

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