Why are VIPs important?
Why should we be glad to suffer the inconvenience of annual Visual Inspections Procedures (VIPs) for our tanks? There is a good reason, but lets start with the need for inspections. First, tanks are pressure vessels that continuously undergo stress during normal use. This stress can cause a tiny defect to grow over a long period of time until the tank ruptures. Fortunately, many of these defects become visible before tank failure occurs. To minimize the risk of such catastrophic failures it is clear that visual inspections are worthwhile.
We have to remember that dive shops and other operators do not want to subject their employees to risk while filling our tanks. They also want to avoid the responsibility associated with filling the tank that is strapped to the diver’s back, but is not known to be in good shape. This presents a problem. From the dive shop’s point of view, they could inspect each tank, and keep their own records of inspection. This would work on their own rental tanks. However, the diver needs to be able to buy air anywhere after the tank is rented. It isn’t feasible to visually inspect tanks at each filling station that the diver might use. The filling stations would have to add the cost of inspections (and additional staff) to the cost of air fills. You can also be certain that I wouldn’t want to wait for a fill and inspection on a busy day.
So what is the solution? It is the VIP sticker! The industry decided that it was appropriate to indicate that the tank was visually inspected according to industry accepted practices by the application of a sticker that would be accepted by other service providers as reasonable evidence of good structural integrity. This allows the diver to travel and obtain fills for a year without the inconvenience of waiting for the inspection to be performed.
There has been a lot of discussion about dive shops getting rich off of this "unnecessary" procedure. In my area, the cost of the VIP is ten dollars...a small price to pay for the convenience offered. The dive shop is probably not making a profit by performing these inspections because their staff is often taken away from other responsibilities to do the work. In any case, the investment is well worth the convenience.
Well, that is why I’m glad to be able to get annual VIP stickers. Any comments will be appreciated.