by Jennifer Larson, Forest Lake Times
Kevin Peters’ first commercial diving job of retrieving cars that almost always plunged through the frozen, murky waters in Minnesota during the middle of the night is a far cry from what he’s doing now.
Today, the Forest Lake native is co-owner of Florida-based Miami Divers, a stand-alone company part of a consortium with Subsea Solutions Alliance. His brother, Paul, a 1986 graduate of Forest Lake High School, has a stake in the business.
They are the sons of Frank and Barbara (deceased) Peters. A sister, Lori Ferrian, lives in Stacy. Kevin Peters enlisted in the Marines at the age of 17, eventually getting his diploma from St. Louis High School in Honolulu, HI.
After taking some jobs to pay the bills, such as student loans from welding and diving schools, Peters decided to move to the southeast with his wife at the time, Dena Kunshier. There, he established Miami Divers and worked it up from repairing yachts to exclusively ships at the present.
“It always grew,” said Peters.
The company is known globally—from Cyprus and Hong Kong to Germany.
Peters, 49, and Miami Divers will become even more recognizable after being featured on an episode of “World’s Toughest Fixes” airing Thursday, June 25 on the National Geographic Channel.
Host Sean Riley joins the Miami team of industrial divers on the Caribbean Island of Curaçao to salvage and repair the 50-ton rudder of Sophie D, a ship carrying $3 million worth of iron ore. With lots of money and big business on the line, the pressure is on and the crew gets right to work.
But first, Peters told Riley he’d have to start at the bottom before getting a crash course in underwater welding. That meant getting the lunch orders!
The cargo vessel ran aground off the coast of Brazil in February on it’s way to the Far East. According to Peters, it took 28 days for tug boats to tow the massive ship 1,000 miles at a cost of $1.3 million. If that seems like a longtime and an astronomical price, consider that Peters said to tow the ship to its destination would have taken nearly five months and would not have been feasible. The value of the year-old ship made in Vietnam is around $60 million.
The Sophie D finally set sail for China last Wednesday, June 17. Although it took over four months to do the extensive repairs, viewers will only get to see the rudder removal.
Even though the work was expensive, it was still more cost effective to go with methods Miami Divers and its partners in the Subsea Solutions Alliance pioneered to make it the most highly-qualified underwater welding outfit in the world.
“No one else had performed something like that before,” said Peters.
Despite being renowned for its techniques, he noted that doing the repairs to begin with was a gamble.
“The damage was so much more severe then we were told,” said Peters.
He brought in David Nimis, a high school friend and member of the FLHS Class of 1977, who is an experienced welder with the pipe/steamfitters Union 455 in St. Paul. Due to a slowdown in the economy, Nimis was able to bring in a few other highly skilled workers from Minnesota.
Peters and his wife, Carol, have a daughter, Olivia.
Tune in to see Peters on “World’s Toughest Fixes” at 8 p.m. The reality series centers around Riley participating in various repairs and renovations done on equipment that is very large or dangerous.