No one knows everything about welding under the sea, but there’s certainly welder-divers with more experience and knowledge than others. Because of the lucrative and often mysterious nature of this interesting field, rumors are started by those that don’t understand it. Rumors are cool, but around here, we prefer facts.
I have hand-picked some of the experts in the fields of commercial diving and welding to answer an extremely important question that many people have when they first begin looking into underwater welding. Here’s the question:
How can underwater welding training advance a commercial diver’s career?
As you’ll see, these experts represent a broad range of fields centered around underwater welding. Some of these fields include education, engineering, welding, underwater construction, management and even publishing. So what’s their answer to this question? Let’s find out!
Prior Experience Required
“At some point in your commercial diving career, you’re going to be tasked with burning underwater and/or welding underwater. It’s part of the industry and the way it works; it’s a commercial divers job, whether they’re working with oil rigs or shipside, harbors, demolition, or anything else.
When it comes to burning or welding it’s a little more technical; you’re working with electricity, using specific communication types, so you’ll need specialized equipment. It’s not necessarily hard work, but you’ll definitely need to be certified.”
– Bill Hicks, Blue Water Marine Services, Inc.
“The International Diving Institute is providing a certification program through the Lloyd`s Register and American Welding Society (AWS). With this certificate the diver is well advanced in the oil and gas industry and (specially Maritime/Salvage), he will be able to provide specific task that other divers cant do. The certification is also a door for advanced continue training, like Non Destructive Testing level (NDT) I-II and a higher pay grade.
With no previous underwater welding experience, it is a necessity to have an understanding of topside welding, both theoretical and practical; it would be a significant advantage to any student wishing to enroll. Basic surface welding courses can be arranged prior to wet welding courses at an additional fee.”
– Michael Hielscher, International Diving Institute Instructor
“Once you have got [commercial diving] certification you can then take an underwater welding course. Prior to getting a job with a company, you must hold a basic underwater welding certification. This doesn’t have a lot of benefit other than helping to get you feet in the door as most companies that do any underwater welding have their own Welding Procedure Specifications (WPS) for each process and type of welding they do and each diver has to be tested to that procedure. At our company one of the major backgrounds we look for is a ticketed and certified Dry Welder before even hiring them as a diver. Once hired on as a diver we will evaluate and see if we should put them thru their underwater welding certification course.”
– Josh Mclafferty, Journeyman ticketed dry welder/pressure pipe welder. Holder of procedural and personal dry welding and underwater welding certifications. Has passed numerous AWS d3.6 ‘A’ class welding tests.
With an ever increasing safety culture there is a greater emphasis on Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) to ensure the ‘fitness for purpose’ of underwater welds and to minimize the likelihood of weld failure.
In recent years, contractors and clients in all sectors of the industry often driven by the classification societies such as Lloyd’s Register (LR), American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), DNV-GL, Bureau Veritas (BV), etc.; require evidence of appropriate training and qualification/certification for welders, often even for non-structural welds such as retrofitting anodes, etc.
Even if a particular project does not require certified welders, it is becoming more difficult to become involved in any wet welding project without appropriate training and certification.
At SGS our diver welders are trained through Hydroweld, which offers an intensive 10-day underwater wet welder training course.
– Uwe W. Aschemeier, Miami Diver LLC Sr. Welding Engineer
“First, they [underwater welders] must gain above-average dry workshop welding skills, which is good for them anyway. To be a topside welder gives them basically another ticket, and between dive-jobs, [they] can find work on a rig or pipe lay barge, earning potential huge [profits].
A diver [who] has good welding skills would take him about a week or so to knock out a couple of fillet welds to AWS 3.6 [standards], but could take up to a month to get a double-sided butt joint or a bevelled butt with a backing material. Most divers do fillet welds overhead and vertical down multi-run, and are subject to 2X macro weld tests and a fillet break test checking for full penetration in the root of the joint tested to class B. For a lot of divers, they find it too difficult to achieve a radiographically Class A weld.
Other skills and qualification that are very useful are dogging, rigging, working with cranes, and lifting and slinging loads like wellhead components, pipe, spooling sections and other sub sea equipment.
– Clive Langley, XLT CEO/MD
“I can only say that with welding skills you get more opportunity to work. That’s what it really comes down to, the diver with the skills get the dive.”
– Jim Bernacki, Divers Institute of Technology Welding Instructor
“Underwater welding capabilities enhance a commercial diver’s employment prospects in a number of ways. Underwater welding (non-structural) on members and ancillary appurtenances in heavy marine construction is by far the majority of UW welding accomplished in the industry both inland and offshore. False work for concrete pours, temporary bracing, cathodic protection anodes, and rigging pad eyes are just some of the routinely provided UW welding tasks required of accomplished and experienced working divers. The ability to quickly and safely apply UW welding techniques in real world situations greatly enhance a diver’s value as a team member.
Structural UW water welding requires a very high skill level, experience, specialty training, and testing. UW welding on structures, vessels, and pipelines is conducted when required and when no other options are available. Divers with these proven skill sets command a premium when the work is available. UW training makes divers more attractive to potential employers and is an essential step in the process of establishing a career in commercial diving.”
– Scott Anderson, Logan Diving & Salvage president
“As a working diver, welding is a skill that is always in high demand, therefore, any diver with good welding skills will always find work.”
– David Keats, author of “Underwater Wet Welding: A Welder’s Mate”
It has been my experience that being a certified underwater welder is an additional credential that can set you apart from other divers and enable you to get on projects that you otherwise would not be qualified for. I have spent my diving career here on the west coast of California and have found that underwater welding in this area was a task that was occasionally required with the companies that I worked for, but was not a full time occupation.
For someone who wants to specialize in underwater welding I would recommend seeking employment with a company that focuses on this type of work, since not all diving companies do.
– Mark Rubio, National University Polytechnic Institute Instructor
“Saying you want to be an underwater welder is like saying you want to be a carburetor mechanic: It’s an extremely specific field. There are people out there making a living doing underwater welding, but not many.”
– College Instructor