/ Underwater Search and Marine Unit

Police work does not just happen on land – the North West Regional Underwater Search and Marine Unit undertakes crucial work above and below the surface.

The unit can be called out to search anywhere between North Wales and the Scottish Border. They cover the force areas of Greater Manchester Police, Merseyside, Cheshire, Lancashire, North Wales and Cumbria.

Established in 1978, the unit is highly experienced in search and recovery operations - as well as all maritime matters. There are 13 people on the team: an Inspector, Sergeant, ten constables and one technician.

Based in Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside, the unit can handle incidents in any of the six force areas and covers the largest area of any police dive team in the UK.

They dive up to 50 metres deep searching for missing people, weapons, stolen goods and submerged vehicles, helping search the areas that other teams can’t reach, including:

  •  Lakes
  •  Rivers
  •  Marshland
  •  Ponds
  •  Canals
  •  Drains
  •  Up to 12 miles offshore in the sea

Specialist Equipment

  • Divers can’t see much once underwater as there is usually little or no visibility. Because of this, the unit uses special searching techniques and items as small as .22 calibre ammunition have been recovered.
  • Diving at night is no problem as the unit is fully equipped with lighting and generators. The unit has also accessed difficult situations like weirs and tunnels.
  • The unit is also fully equipped and trained to search in confined spaces using gas detectors, breathing apparatus and protective clothing.  They are also available and well equipped to recover badly decomposed bodies from dry land in the open or in buildings.
  • The unit has sufficient vehicles to operate within a wide range of environments encountered within the region.  For their marine police activity they have a 42ft launch, rigid inflatable boats and a survey vessel.


  • Sonar technology helps the divers to see underwater. Sound waves hit objects in the water and once reflected back are interpreted as high-resolution computer images. The unit uses sonar to search for sunken vehicles, boats and missing persons.

Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)

  • The ROV is a small, unmanned submarine that is operated from the shore or a boat.  It’s equipped with lights and a video camera. The ROV is operated from a control box complete with monitor which displays live video that can be recorded for evidence. What makes the ROV special is that it can dive to depths of 150m - recovering items from places too dangerous for divers to operate in.


  • Each of our 11 divers takes an intensive dive course and is trained to the highest professional standards to comply with the diving at work regulations.  The team are also qualified in marine operations using the unit’s launch and rigid inflatable boats.

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