The Magazine for Underwater Professionals
Leading light Alf Leadbitter awarded Outstanding Contribution Award at Subsea UK awards dinner
The achievements of one of the world’s most experienced commercial diver trainers have been recognised at a prestigious subsea awards ceremony. Alf Leadbitter, diver training authority at The Underwater Centre in Fort William, Scotland, was presented with the award for Outstanding Contribution to the Subsea Industry at the annual Subsea UK Awards, held in February.
The award is in recognition of the impact made by an individual to the subsea sector over the course of their career.
Leadbitter’s long and successful career – which spans 50 years not only as a commercial diver, but also as a dive supervisor, instructor and assessor – has seen him travel the globe sharing his expertise with commercial diving students. He has worked at The Underwater Centre on the west coast of Scotland, for more than 30 years, where he has led diver training for the last ten years.
Steve Ham, general manager of The Underwater Centre, believes the commercial diving industry has a lot to thank Leadbitter for following his tireless work ensuring training reaches the highest standards in health and safety and in subsea skills. “Everyone at the Centre is absolutely delighted that Alf has received this industry recognition; it is very much deserved,” he says. “Alf has made a significant contribution to commercial diving across the entire subsea industry and has been at the forefront of commercial diver training for almost 35 years. He has been central to the global development of closed bell training, the establishment of diver training and safety processes and has championed the cause of training divers to work underwater, rather than simply teaching them to dive.”
Leadbitter – who was instrumental in setting up closed bell training courses at The Underwater Centre in Fort William, its sister training facility in Tasmania, Australia, and the National Institute of Professional Diving in Marseille, France – is one of just two people in the world qualified as an ADAS (Australian Diver Accreditation Scheme) training and assessment manager (ATAM) for the ADAS Part 4 Closed Bell Course, the other being one of his colleagues at The Underwater Centre. His other professional qualifications include HSE Closed Bell, Offshore Closed Bell Supervisor and Life Support Technician Certificates, along with assessor and internal verifier’s qualifications and a first-class honours degree in Science achieved from the Open University.
Leadbitter says: “I feel absolutely honoured and privileged to have won this award; to be acknowledged in such a way for doing a job that I enjoy so much is very special indeed.
“Since leaving school, I have worked in engineering and diving in all capacities from shop floor or seabed to trainer to management. My career started as an apprentice fitter and since then I have worked as an engineer, foreman, diver, diving supervisor and client representative. Since 1988 I have been involved in diver training as an instructor, supervisor and manager.
“I have worked at the Centre for more than 30 years, during which time I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with the staff and the different students who come from around the world.”
Leadbitter started his working life as an apprentice fitter in the coalmines, and then went on to become a maintenance fitter in a steelworks. His career in commercial diving began in 1975, and since becoming involved in commercial diver training, he has worked for 30-plus years to ensure that diver training is safe, while teaching students the requisite skills to begin a subsea career.
Leadbitter is also a recognised key sounding board when it comes to diver training and safety with the HSE and its Australian equivalent, the Australian Diver Accreditation Scheme.
During this time, Leadbitter has been a senior authority on commercial diver training and is a key contributor to commercial diving and training bodies, such as IMCA’s SMTT committee, and was instrumental in creating ADAS’ closed bell standards.
He says: “I’ve been lucky to have a career that has required me to travel the globe, both as a diver and a trainer. The main changes which I have seen in my time in the industry come with health and safety; everything is now about safety and the competency levels of the divers, whereas when I started you were judged on the number of hours you’d spent underwater.”
Steve Ham says: “Alf has been a real leading light in the training of commercial divers around the world, and has initiated numerous programmes which have improved the systems, curricula and the methodology that are used in diver training today.
“The efforts made by Alf to improve the provision of commercial diver training have made a huge impact upon the wider industry, especially at a time of significant growth for the industry and an increasing demand for commercial air and closed bell divers.”