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Diving Safety

Diving with INA

The Institute of Nautical Archaeology has a long history of underwater archaeological projects that have been conducted safely. Occurrence of diving illness on INA-led projects is significantly less than international and U.S. national averages among recreational divers, in part due to the unique position that archaeological divers hold between recreational divers and professional divers and in part due to a community standard of safe diving practices that is conveyed through the Scientific Dive Plan Application (SDPA).

The majority of projects approved and supported by the INA Archaeological Committee are conducted under the diving safety auspices of another host institution, for example, that of the Principal Investigator (PI)’s academic home. INA recommends you first contact your institution’s Diving Safety Officer to learn more about their requirements. INA staff will do our best to ensure that the relationship between your host institution and INA is as seamless as possible.

It is the philosophy of INA to send to the field prepared, responsible, and capable divers who are skilled in assisting other team members in emergency and non-emergency situations. With this philosophy in mind, PIs of all INA-approved projects must submit for approval a complete SDPA no less than 30 days prior to the start of diving activities. Earlier submission is highly recommended to allow time for review and correction of any deficiencies in the SDPA.


Download the SDPA form here (pdf or Word).

Before submission of the SDPA, assure that each participant has met the following five criteria and provide proof of current certification training for each applicable requirement. Project participants not meeting these minimum criteria may cause delays in approval of the SDPA until such deficiencies have been rectified. If not met, the SDPA may be rejected, or the individual participants may not be approved for diving.


Each diving applicant must be certified at the minimum appropriate level for the project by a recognized certification agency (e.g., PADI, NAUI, SSI, or BSAC). If certification was gained through another agency, the diver must petition the INA Diving Safety Officer, with the SDPA, at least 30 days prior to the start of the project, for approval.

Certification level should be congruent to the proposed working depth and purpose of the project (e.g. Open Water, Advanced Open Water, etc.).


Each diver must have a current diving specific physical examination and be approved for diving by the examining physician. The requirements are detailed on our Medical Examination form (pdf or Word). Although preferable, using the INA form is not required. However, regardless of the form used, all criteria of the form should be met.

The initial exam should include all required tests listed for a first-time diving medical (including a chest x-ray). Future exams, repeated on the schedule below, should meet the minimum criteria for follow-up exams, unless the physician deems additional tests necessary.

The examination should be repeated as follows:
Below Age 40: Five (5) years from date of last exam
Age 40 to 59: Three (3) years from date of last exam.
Age 60 and older: Two (2) years from date of last exam.


Each diver must maintain insurance that covers diving related accidents relevant to the area in which they will be working. For example, for those divers working within the United States, Divers Alert Network (DAN)- Preferred or Master Level insurance (dependent upon the diver’s state of residence) or equivalent is sufficient. For those divers working outside the United States, a higher level is generally required to cover return transportation to the diver’s home country, if necessary. For example, DAN Guardian or Preferred Level insurance (dependent upon the diver’s state of residence) or equivalent is sufficient. Recent changes dictate that divers 70+ years of age should explore current DAN policy options for availability, mandated by their home state.


Each diver should maintain current CPR, Basic First Aid, and Oxygen Administration certifications through a recognized agency. Most certifying agencies require refresher courses every two years. DAN is the preferred agency since their training is specific to diving and submersion accidents, although other major agency training may be acceptable.

Online training that lack a physical skills component are not acceptable to meet this requirement.


A current completed Diver Experience/History Record and Contact Information form must be submitted for each diver. These forms provide a record of the diver’s experience and training, as well as emergency contact information.

Once approved, a copy of the SDPA, complete with divers’ histories and emergency contact information, should printed and kept on site in case of emergency.

Individuals who fail to comply with these requirements jeopardize the financial support of INA.
If you experience difficulty meeting these criteria or have questions about any of them, please contact the INA DSO (John Littlefield) ( as soon as possible.

* Although INA prefers DAN insurance, we are not financially affiliated with DAN.
DAN insurance options can be reviewed and purchased online at (or by calling DAN at 1-800-446-2671) or from DAN Europe at