PORT BLAIR, India (Jan. 11, 2011) - USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50), U.S. Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One, Company 1-6 and Commander, Task Force 73 are strengthening established diving and salvage relationships with the Indian Navy as part of Salvage Exchange 2011 (SALVEX 11), the latest in a series of longstanding diving and salvage exchanges between the two countries.

Starting with Safeguard’s arrival in Port Blair Jan. 4th, SALVEX 11 gives 17 U.S. and 17 Indian Navy divers the chance to improve interoperability by learning each other’s equipment, discussing safety procedures, and conduct various diving operations during six days of in-port training, followed by a three-day underway phase.

erway phase. “There is a lot of commonality between the U.S. and Indian Navy diving programs,” said Lt. Cmdr. Derek Peterson, Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet Diving and Salvage Officer, with Task Force 73. “Some of the equipment and techniques we use are similar, SALVEX 11 helps Indian Navy and U.S. Navy divers build relationships and strengthen communication so we can work together efficiently in times of crises in the future if ever needed.”

During the in-port phase, MDSU-1 divers gave the Indian Diver a tour of Safeguard and then latter given a tour of the Indian Navy’s saturation diving vessel, INS Nireekshak. Sailors from both Navies conducted a joint Community Service Project, visiting with 70 children at the Sevaniketan Orphanage during their liberty period in Port Blair. While in-port, both groups of divers became familiar with each other’s diving equipment, current diving operations, and core capabilities. Both Navies practiced skills used to identify submerged objects including remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations and side-scan sonar searches.

Also while in port, Master Diver Robert Evans demonstrated “Hot Tap” procedures to divers from both countries on the fantail of Safeguard, followed by practical underwater training while the ship was pierside. The focus was on procedures used to remove fuel and oil from sunken vessels while virtually eliminating any contamination of fuel to the surrounding environment.

For the underway phase, the U.S. and Indian Navy divers, diving from Safeguard, conducted six joint surface-supply dives at depths of up to 150 feet. In a demonstration of INS Nireekshak’s dynamic positioning system, the ship approached Safeguard (in a two point moor), and while in close proximity both Navies conducted surface supplied diving operations utilizing KM-37 diving helmets. Two divers from both ships descended to the sea floor, united in hand shake, and took photos commemorating the occasion. U.S. divers were later invited to witness saturation diving techniques on Nireekshak. The next day the Indian divers demonstrated surface-supplied saturation diving operations, diving from Nireekshak, at depths of 210 ft.

“Exercises are a crucial part of building working relationships with other nations for all kinds of peacetime operations and support,” Peterson said, also noting that U.S. Navy divers have worked alongside divers from numerous other navies around the world in locating and recovering lost civilian and military aircraft, ships, and even supported following a natural disasters. “By training with other navies under a variety of different conditions before a request for support or tragedy, it enables the U.S. Navy to support with a quick and effective response when needed,” Peterson added.

The SALVEX series with the Indian Navy began in 2005 and is held periodically, with each nation taking turns hosting. The last SALVEX, in 2009, was held at MDSU-1 in Hawaii with Indian and U.S. divers operating from the USNS Navajo (T-ATF 169) in the coastal waters of Oahu.

Safeguard is one of four rescue and salvage ships in Military Sealift Command's inventory and is crewed by 26 civil service mariners and four Navy sailors who operate the communications suite. MSC is the ocean transportation provider for the Department of Defense which operates approximately 110 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships around-the-globe.