Rules regarding dive flags plus regulations with the purpose of protecting vulnerable divers and swimmers in water are easy to understand. It is mandatory to respect these requirements to save lives.
'Code A' Flag (blue & white dive flag)
All vessels conducting diving operations on or under the surface must display the 'Code A' or 'blue & white' dive flag. It means 'I have a diver in the water; keep well clear at slow speed’.
Vessels cannot exceed 5 knots within 200 metres of a 'Code A' dive flag.
Note: Skippers should be aware of the red & white 'Diver-Down' flag often used by international vessels with divers in the water and increasingly towed by in-water divers and spearfishermen. Proceed with the same caution as applies to the blue and white 'Code A' dive flag.
General restricted speed guidelines
No vessels may exceed 5 knots within 200 metres of the shore.
Swimmers, divers, free-divers and spearfisherman who are within 200 metres of the shore can expect protection from vessels operating at higher speeds by this regulation.
Maritime New Zealand has investigated many accidents where serious harm has been caused to persons in the water by vessels operating over 5 knots within 200 metres of the shore. Victims of these accidents have suffered severe injuries, in some cases, death.
In New Zealand, skippers must comply with maritime rules, as defined by Maritime New Zealand. To ensure the safety of persons in the water, always remember the following:
- The responsibility to keep clear of swimmers and divers lies 100% with the vessel
- Always keep a lookout for swimmers and divers, especially when operating within 200 metres of the shore
There is no legal requirement for divers not accompanied by a vessel to display any flag, although many now tow 'Code A' dive flags on floats or the alternative red and white Diver Down flag.
Vessels may encounter swimmers and divers well offshore. They can be challenging to see, especially in choppy conditions or in poor visibility.
Vessels should be especially vigilant when operating near beaches in high population areas, where swimmers are likely to be encountered beyond 200 metres from shore.