About five years ago, U.S. Underwater Services, LLC (USUS) moved to Mansfield, TX. What was the main reason for the move and how did it help the company?
At the time of our move, USUS was owned by Neptune Marine Services of Perth, Australia. A move to a newer, bigger, and more modern facility was simply part of their grander plan, and we are much better as a result of it.
We went from half of a block of converted houses and storage buildings to a 50,000 square feet industrial facility on five acres overnight.
Mansfield is a great fit for us, and the benefits were many; better location and equipment, more space, room to grow, a place to host clients and functions, a great community, and even a sense of purpose and validation for those that continue to work at USUS each day.
It’s actually a pretty impressive place for a company of our size, and we are quite proud of it.
We also wanted to stay near the Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX area, as all of our employees and their families are based here.
As of 2012, we are no longer owned by Neptune, but we retained the facility.
USUS quickly expanded into providing offshore diving services after just three years in the industry. Are most of your present day projects offshore or inland?
Present day, the majority of our business comes from the offshore market.
However, inland diving has been a staple of our business since the beginning and remains so to this day.
As with the majority of the diving industry, seasonality does play a part in our operations.
Having said that, USUS typically conducts most of its offshore work from spring to fall, with the winter months more weighted toward inland work in order to keep our guys busy year around.
In our experience, this creates a well-rounded diver with multiple skillsets, and the opportunity for them to stay sharp (and gainfully employed) regardless of season.
Your company has a strong history in its Underwater Inspection in Lieu of Drydocking (UWILD) projects, performing more than other contractors. Can you briefly define UWILD’s and why they’re important to the maritime industry?
Basically, the UWILD inspection is a requirement of all Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs) to ensure seaworthiness and suitability for drilling operations.
By doing these inspections at sea, it saves the rig owner and its client valuable time and money by allowing them to continue their operations while the inspections are being performed.
Presently, USUS conducts more UWILD work in the Gulf of Mexico than any other diving contractor.
USUS has partnered with Nepsys® to boost its underwater welding capabilities. How does their equipment give you an edge over other contractors?
As you know from previous writings, Nepsys is a “dry” underwater welding technology patented by Neptune Marine Services (NMS) in Australia.
As a former NMS company, USUS maintains a licensing agreement with NMS for the use of the product here in the US.
There are various spins on the concept, but the system essentially allows for a “Class A” dry weld to be conducted underwater without the use of manned chambers or large enclosures that need to be de-watered.
Divers trained in both underwater welding and the use of the Nepsys system weld through a lightweight and portable habitat which is custom-built to fit the area of the repair. The habitat itself contains all of the tools required to preheat and dry the metal, while maintaining a positive pressure environment that prevents rapid quenching/cooling of the weld and its heat-affected zones.
The rods are also coated with a proprietary substance that prevents salt water intrusion and pollution of the bead.
The biggest benefit is that the repairs are often conducted “in situ”, meaning that the asset can remain on station and operational while the repair is being conducted.
To date, Nepsys has been deployed successfully on several platforms and rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, and numerous other projects around the world.
USUS also maintains AWS welding certifications on approximately 1/3 of its dive team at all times in order to stay abreast of the skill.
From there, it’s just a short jump to re-train these divers as needed for the specific welding project and procedure.
Few people have ever seen the inside of a community water tower, and water tank servicing is one inland service you perform. Are they filled to the brim with water?
No. Most potable water storage facilities are designed with additional plumbing for overflow prevention, and are also vented at the roof to prevent over-pressurization and structural stress from changes in water level.
There is always an air gap between the water level and the roof of the tank, even when it’s “full”, and many tanks have ladders or catwalks inside for personnel use and maintenance purposes.
These air gaps must be treated with the same caution as with any confined space; breathability must be ensured before any non-diving personnel can enter.
At USUS, all tank work is considered confined space diving and/or entry and it is conducted accordingly.
Job safety is highly emphasized, and USUS has its own acronym for the word. How does your safety emphasis aid in employee accountability and morale?
Aside from our “Take 5” and “SAFE” programs, one of our many mottos at USUS is that “No Job is Worth an Injury”.
We believe in having a culture where everyone has a say, all observations matter, and that everyone goes home at night in one piece.
Safety is the single most important thing that we try to instill within our team; followed closely by quality of service and professionalism.
We feel that having a culture that equally recognizes all team members’ contributions to safety, regardless of position or experience, has a very positive impact on accountability and morale.
People tend to give their best when they get yours.
What’s one of the major highlights of working in the industry?
For me, there are many great things about commercial diving; too many to cover them all here, that’s for sure.
However, if I were to give you the “short list”, at the top for me would be the experiences I’ve had while wearing the helmet.
As unglamorous as the reality can be, and often is, seeing and doing things that most people only get to read about is something that most commercial divers are very proud of.
Not far behind would be the people.
I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the greatest people I have ever known. The camaraderie is incredible.
Last would be the travel and the variety of work.
Offshore or inland, no two jobs or days are exactly alike.
It’s hard to get bored when the scenery and circumstances are constantly changing.
– Bryan Nicholls; President/COO of U.S. Underwater Services, LLC
Based out of Texas, USUS provides a large variety of inland and offshore services to the maritime industry, including underwater ROV and UWILD inspections and underwater repairs to rigs and vessels.