International Diving Institute

The International Diving Institute (IDI) is a private, for-profit technical school in North Charleston, South Carolina.[2][3][4] Originally a fitness equipment shop called East Coast Dive Connection, the school was founded in 2004 when it offered advanced dive training, especially in the use of surface supplied air, underwater welding,[5] rigging and hyperbaric chamber operation, leading to a certification required for commercial divers working on oil platforms in the offshore oil industry and for diving operations in the United States that are regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.[6]

International Diving Institute
Above ground, diver training tanks at IDI
FounderMichael Hielsher
Founded atNorth Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
PurposeCommercial diving training
Sergio A. Smith
General Manager
Michael Hielsher
Vice President
E. Lee Spence
Formerly called
East Coast Dive Connection


In 1996, Sergio Smith, a former US Navy diver and member of its Seabee program, established a fitness equipment shop called East Coast Dive Connection, located in Summerville, South Carolina.[7][8] It later expanded into a dive shop with scuba gear and offered recreational scuba classes as well as underwater welding certifications.[9] The company was then turned into a school in 2003, establishing its campus in North Charleston, with underwater archaeologist E. Lee Spence as a co-owner, and retaining the Summerville location as a dive shop.[10][11][3] In 2004, it was renamed to International Diving Institute. Both Smith and Spence have served as instructors.[1]

In 2016, 12 members of the Seabee Underwater Construction Team 2 (UCT 2) enrolled in IDI's wet welding course. Of the 12, only two people had previous experience in surface welding.[12] In 2017, members of UCT 2's Construction Diving Detachment Alpha (CDDA) participated in the two-week underwater welding certification course.[5]


IDI was licensed by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education as a non-degree occupational training institution.[13]

IDI is one of fewer than a dozen professional diving colleges currently operating in North America.[14][15] It is a member of Association of Diving Contractors International[16] and trains to the Standards published by the Association of Commercial Diving Educators, the American National Standards Institute, and the Sea Research Society.[10]

Admissions and school structure

Admission requirements are: 18 years or older, GED or high school diploma, US citizen, and passing a diving physical exam.[17] Students are not required to have previous experience.[18] Palmetto Business Daily reported that tuition to be $18,100 for the 201718 year with 21 students enrolled.[2]


IDI offers programs in Air/Mixed Gas Surface Supplied Welding, Underwater Welding, HAZWOPER/HAZMAT for general and commercial diving, ROV pilot, Underwater Burning, and Diving Supervisor.[19] Courses typically run for 640 hours over 16 weeks, and meet certifications for OSHA and commercial diving jobs.[20][11] Of these hours, about half is classroom lecture and the other half is practical applications as required by Association of Dive Contractors International.[16] Some additional training courses for certifications run another two weeks.[21] Training is done on-site in the wet tanks, at the dive stations in the Cooper River, and also nearby piers.[11]


IDI is situated at an old Navy base on the Cooper River in North Charleston, South Carolina. Its facilities include a two-story building with classrooms, offices, and work areas. Workshops include: metal fabrication, welding, a clean room for gas systems fabrication, and diesel compressor training area. There are hyperbaric chambers for compression/decompression.[10] The school has three wet tanks. The main tank is 48,800 gallons and is 20 feet deep, and in 2009, a tube was appended to enable students to practice working in confined spaces. A second tank is used for installing in confined spaces with minimal visibility and also for rigging and hoisting. A third tank is used for wet welding. The school also has access to the Cooper River in which dive stations have been installed.[11][20] The school has a dive shop that also services other divers besides the students.[11]

Notable staff


  1. "Owners / Instructors". International Diving Institute. Archived from the original on June 7, 2005. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  2. "Cost of college was unchanged for all students at International Diving Institute". Palmetto Business Daily. July 3, 2018. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  3. "International Diving Institute Opens a World of Possibilities with Commercial Diving". cDiver. December 11, 2014. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  4. "Guide to underwater welding salary and careers". Water Welders. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  5. "Seabee Dive Detachment Hones Underwater Welding Skills". Seabee Online. April 20, 2017. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  6. "International Diving Institute Commercial Diving and Underwater Welding Training Facility". PALM Charter High School. December 5, 2016. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  7. "EAST COAST DIVE CONNECTION, LLC, Summerville, South Carolina, SC 29483-6824". Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  8. "International Diving Institute in Summerville, SC 29483". Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  9. "BBB Business Profile - International Diving Institute, LLC". Better Business Bureau. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  10. "About". International Diving Institute. Archived from the original on June 23, 2005. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  11. Bax, Alan; Williams, Jill, eds. (July 2010). "International Diving Institute, Charleston, South Carolina" (PDF). International Diving Schools Association. No. 16. p. 6.
  12. "UCT 2 Technicians Further Underwater Welding Capabilities". Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. April 29, 2016. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  13. "Directory Licensed non-degree (occupational training) institutions" (PDF). South Carolina Commission on Higher Education. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  14. American Welding Society. "Underwater Welding : Education :". American Welding Society. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  15. Association of Diving Contractors International (November–December 2008). "Commercial Diving Schools (alphabetical by country)". Underwater Magazine. Vol. 20 no. 6. p. 46. Retrieved July 6, 2018 via Issuu.
  16. "International Diving Institute Civil Suit". April 1, 2014. Retrieved July 6, 2018 via Scribd.
  17. "Admissions - IDI". International Diving Institute. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  18. Thelen, Colby (February 6, 2017). "Red, White and Blue-Collar: High paying jobs and where to find them". (WCBD TV website). Nexstar. Event occurs at Click first video for news segment broadcast on Commercial Diving / IDI. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  19. "Commercial Diving & Underwater Welding Training". International Diving Institute. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  20. "Rebecca Ziegler, International Diving Institute Scholarship Recipient, Begins Commercial Diver Training". California Diver. July 12, 2016. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  21. "International Diving Institute Complaint Review Charleston, South Carolina Regarding Program Length". Ripoff Report. March 25, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2018. At the International Diving Institute, we provide an ADCI commercial diving course. This includes 640 hours of classroom and practical studies over the course of 16 weeks. We also offer an additional 2-week course in advanced underwater welding for those interested in pursuing a Lloyds Register certification. An ADCI certification is only processed for students who attend all training sessions and complete testing with satisfactory grades.
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