underwater welder

How to become an underwater welder

Although a career as a underwater welder can be satisfying, it’s not for everybody. The industry demands a mandatory total commitment, long hours, extensive travel, a high attitude, and a superior work ethic and code. If you’re interested in becoming a top-notch commercial diver and underwater welder, then it’s important to be ready for a career that’s physically and mentally challenging. 

Underwater welding is an interesting and somewhat very dangerous career that appeals to many adventurous outdoor types. This career falls within the wider category of commercial diving, as underwater welders must have a commercial diving certification before underwater equipment can be repaired by welding. Many underwater welders also perform other underwater maintenance tasks as professional divers. 

The underwater welder’s basic task is to dive into underwater equipment and oil lines to weld them for repairs or new construction. Usually, underwater welders start by taking pictures of the affected areas of the project. They will then go through the process of recommending materials and equipment, as well as the process of deciding how long a job will take. They would then do the actual welding and repair work in the underwater environment to have exclusive access. 

Underwater welders use a range of conventional arc welding techniques to weld and cut in a wide variety of aquatic settings. They must use their welding know-how and intricate knowledge of diving techniques and procedures to lay down solid welds effectively, often in tight spaces and less-than-forgiving surroundings. Hyperbaric chambers and cofferdams are used for dry welding, while wet welding is carried out in open waters up to a depth of several hundred feet. 

As a Commercial Diver/Underwater Welder, you will always be expected to work in the most demanding conditions, requiring the diver to be highly trained, skilled, and in high physical and mental health conditions. 

What is Underwater welding? 

Underwater welding, also referred to as Hyperbaric welding, is welding at elevated pressures is normally underwater. Hyperbaric welding can either happen wet within the water itself or dry inside a specially and well constructed positive pressure enclosure and hence a dry environment. It’s predominantly mentioned as “hyperbaric welding” when utilized in a dry environment and “underwater welding” when during a wet environment. Hyperbaric welding applications are diverse—it is usually wont to repair ships, offshore oil platforms, and pipelines. Steel is that the commonest material welded. 

What does it mean to work as an underwater welder? 

Leading Diving Contractors employ most commercial divers, and on a typical day, you could end up reporting for duty right at the dock with all of your work gear. From there, a transport vessel will carry you to the job site-maybe several miles off the coast. When you’re at the dive site, you’re going to cover up, run through your checklist, and then dive into the water. 

Once submerged, you’ll descend to the right depth, review your project, report back to the topside, then attend work making the right repairs/welds needed. After the work has been completed, you’ll communicate with the topside that the task has been fulfilled and can then begin making your ascent towards the surface. If necessary, you’ll complete in-water decompression and, upon surfacing, enter into a decompression chamber to make sure you are doing not display the symptoms of aeroembolism. This results from bubble formation (similar to it during a carbonated beverage) within the diver’s tissues! 

Underwater welders are those who perform critical work related to various industrial applications, including constructing offshore oil platforms, maintaining and repairing ships, underwater pipelines. They need advanced diving and welding skills, including various technical welding techniques. Underwater welders are highly skilled in advanced diving and welding. They work with advanced equipment designed for safe underwater use without a high risk of electrical shock. 

While training in a variety of techniques, these professionals perform tasks that are essentially grouped into two categories: 

Wet welding: 

This means that the welding process requires being directly exposed to damp or fully submerged environments. 

  • Using a special waterproof electrode 
  • Requires the supply of equipment to be connected to the welding equipment using cables and hoses 
  • When performed at significant depths, a highly-skilled underwater welder with advanced knowledge of ambient pressure and its effects on welding is required. 
  • Most commonly use shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) techniques. 

Dry welding: 

  • Takes place underwater but is performed during a dry environment, usually called a chamber (an enclosed container that’s submerged underwater) 
  • Involves working within the chamber, which (similar to submarines) is pressurized to face up to underwater conditions 
  • Is performed by sealing the chamber round the structure that needs welding work 
  • It is usually limited to a maximum operating depth of 400 meters. 
  • Can theoretically involve the majority of welding processes but most commonly uses gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) 

Some duties and common roles can include: 

  • Maintaining oil platforms 
  • New construction projects, such as bridges
  • Inspecting, repairing, and maintaining underwater pipelines  
  • Repairing ships 
  • Salvaging shipwrecked vessels 
  • The building, maintaining, and repairing telecommunications equipment beneath the floor of the ocean. 

Also, they are responsible for performing a number of tasks before any welding is carried out. Any of these responsibilities can include: 

  • Inspecting, photographing, and making work environment maps
  • Researching and recording all facets of prospective jobs
  • Checking devices and explosives
  • Researching to ensure the feasibility and safety of projects

The length of the project and the working hours can vary greatly depending on the project’s nature. As a result, work can range from only a few hours to days, months, or even years. However, it is essential to remember that, while the main goal is the actual welding job, the vast majority of time/effort is also spent on training, planning, and safety measures. 

For safety purposes, they work with a team of qualified professionals who stay on standby above water and keep in close touch with each other to provide urgent assistance if the welder is in danger at any time. 

Underwater Welding Salary and Benefits 

According to global statistics, if you’re out of school, you can expect a salary that starts at about $25,000 per year. However, experience and preparation are not the only variables that decide the salary that you can receive

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The place and work environment may also play a role in this. As a rookie underwater welder working in offshore environments such as subsea sites, wet-welding oil rig pipelines, wellheads, ship turbines, chain anchor legs, and underwater oil pipes, you can receive a salary ranging from $40,000 to $60,000 per year.  

Onshore underwater welders who have recently completed their training should expect a salary of between $25,000 and $40,000 per year. These programs include the cleaning and inspection of water towers and bridges, the repair and restoration of freshwater pipes, the rescue and recovery of sunken ships, the inspection and repair of dam walls, and the cutting of underwater debris. 

Other onshore projects in this category of wages include the inspection of sewage pipes, repair of inlet systems for nuclear power stations, and support for pillar installations for shipping. 

Veteran 

If you’re a veteran with more than three years of experience, you should expect your salary to increase. In offshore settings, veteran underwater welders can expect a salary ranging from $75,000 to $100,000 per year, depending on their qualification level, prior experience, and business diver schedule. 

The pay for veteran divers also depends on how long they operate during the year. The offshore season is usually from April to November, as waves and winter conditions are usually unpredictable during the winter months. However, some offshore divers may operate throughout the year if they work on topside construction or water vessel maintenance. 

Onshore veterans should expect to earn between $50,000 and $80,000 a year, which is less than that of offshore veterans. Because of this, many diver welders tend to work at oceanic work sites. Offshore jobs are not for everyone; however, you should carefully consider the workload and timetable before you specialize in one or the other. 

Education and Training Requirements 

Underwater welding requires training and qualification both as a diver and as a welder. An underwater welder will most of the time begin with either a technical diving certificate or a surface welding certificate and then complete his or her training with proper training. For the most part, underwater welding preparation takes place independently in both arenas. Underwater welders and other experienced divers start as apprentice divers, also known as diver tenders, and then move into underwater welders on their own. 

What are the Training Requirements? 

  • Complete a commercial diving program. It’s not enough to easily find out how to dive. Sport or recreational dive programs don’t cover important areas concerning offshore working conditions, diving equipment, or safety considerations. 
  • Complete a welding program. Before you find out how to perform welding underwater, you want to first be capable of welding above ground. 
  • Obtain underwater welding training. Once you’ve been trained in both commercial diving and welding, you’re ready for specialized underwater welding training, teaching you ways to mix your skills, knowledge, and skills and apply them to the sector. 

Although the various sorts of training mentioned above can happen separately in three different steps (i.e., by taking three different programs), it’s also possible to seek out underwater welding training with all of the above areas within a single comprehensive program. 

What Can I Expect to Learn at the underwater welding School? 

When you complete all the required prerequisites and have enrolled in the program, you will concentrate on acquiring the specialized skills, theoretical background, and safety awareness needed to get started in this area. 

Generally, most programs will include top-notch and extensive theoretical training related to: 

  • Underwater welding techniques for both wet and dry welding 
  • Various facilities, including ships, offshore commercial equipment, oil platforms, bridges, pipelines, etc. 
  • The terminology of welding and electrode 
  • Welding of different materials and common welding defects 
  • Health principles related to safe driving techniques, welding methods, emergency procedures, and more. 
  • Information on different ecosystems, including common sea creatures and plants 

When you have a sound knowledge base, the next section of the program will usually include training in: 

  • Preparation activities, including mapping, analysis, and documentation 
  • Proper use of diving clothing and equipment 
  • Proper use of welding devices, from sled hammers to pry bars to electrical tools. 
  • Forms of welding methods, e.g., vertical, overhead, t-joint, horizontal, and line 
  • Safe preparation of the environment in both wet and dry conditions 
  • Quality control and quality assurance tasks 

Some schools have access to actual off-site underwater welding environments, while others build on-site replicas of offshore or inland settings. 

In addition, as certification is necessary to pursue jobs in the industry, most programs will also devote a large portion of the training to the preparation of certification. 

How Long is Underwater Welding School? 

The length of training can vary greatly and is influenced by a variety of factors, such as the level of education and duration of the course. It may also rely on what is expected of the school. In a situation whereby commercial diving and general welding are a large part of the curriculum, the program will usually be longer — from two to five years. On the other hand, a more advanced curriculum that focuses exclusively on underwater welding skills may often be completed in six months. 

Is Certification Necessary? 

Various certifications are required and can include: 

  • Commercial Diving Physical Examination 
  • Administered by the Association of International Diving Contractors (ACDI). 
  • Any licensed physician can be done, but it is recommended that you find a physician with experience in hyperbaric and/or diving medicine. 
  • It requires recording medical records, physical examination, laboratory and/or x-ray examinations, and clinical tests. 
  • It may be appropriate to provide the evaluation of psychiatric and temperament 
  • Commercial Diver Certification Card 
  • Administered by ACDI. 
  • Application requirements may also vary depending on the type of certification card you are pursuing, but all certifications require you to complete a commercial diving program  first.  

Common requirements for applications for those interested in underwater welding may include a set number of field days, number of working dives, and successful completion of the test. 

These requirements must have been complied with within the last 24 months of the date of application. 

American Welding Society Certified Welder 

  • Performance-based, with no restrictions on prior courses or certifications. 
  • Involve the hiring of an authorized test facility and a weld’s performance that must be approved by an AWS Qualified Welding Inspector. 
  • Continued certification allows you to meet certification maintenance protocols and request review forms every six months. 

Job opportunities, employment perspectives, and career growth 

Job prospects in this field are fair to nice, particularly when more underwater oil exploration is taking place in the United States. However, the availability of work can vary from year to year, and many underwater welding technicians work on a contractual basis as needed. Those that want to be the most employable should be willing to travel around the world for work as needed. 

The American Welding Society (AWS) argues that demand will fluctuate depending on supply and demand — just like any other industry. Recently, however, demand has increased due to a variety of factors, including: 

  • Deep-sea oil and gas development 
  • Marine infrastructure repair and development 

It is very necessary for you to bear in mind that the most skilled and trained underwater welders will be the most in-demand. Underwater welders can require patience and determination to break into the field. However, you can significantly enhance your job opportunities by selecting an accredited school, ensuring that the curriculum offers a maximum of hands-on training and experience, and pursuing the required certifications. In addition, when you get started first, it’s important to be flexible about the venue. If you’re willing to move to where the job is, you’re far more likely to be in a role. 

Skilled divers wishing to work in underwater welding can be able to improve their employability by possessing several specialties, like ironworks or other repair-type specialties. Some divers continue to set up their own companies, and others make quite a huge amount of money as consultants who charge for their services on an as-needed basis. 

Hazards and risks 

The dangers of underwater welding include the possibility of electrical shock to the welder. In order to avoid this, the welding equipment must be adaptable to the marine environment, properly insulated, and the welding current must also be controlled. Commercial divers or underwater welders must also consider the occupational safety issues facing divers, particularly the risk of decompression due to increased pressure from breathing gases. Many divers indicated a metallic taste due to the galvanic breakdown of dental amalgam. Long-term neurological and probably musculoskeletal effects associated with underwater welding can also occur. 

What are the Perks? 

  • There is no doubt that a little danger comes with a lot of excitement and a strong sense of adventure. 
  • Working underwater, especially when it’s in offshore environments, is fascinating. The ocean has always been (and always will be) a constant source of undisputed wonder and awe. 
  • Technologies and equipment are constantly being modified, and continuous learning can build a strong sense of satisfaction. 
  • Continued creativity in the field makes it possible to bring more complex and advanced engineering concepts to life. Witnessing the change can be exhilarating. 
  • The promise of a six-figure salary can be highly appealing. 
  • You will have the opportunity to travel extensively — see new places, meet new people, and acquire incredible experiences. 

Underwater welder life expectancy 

According to some recent reviews and investigations, the underwater welder’s average age is between 35 and 40 years. 

Although the data is entirely based on some investigations, it is therefore not conclusive. Nothing can be said about the exact life expectancy of the underwater welder. 

Underwater welder Death Rate 

Many people believe that electrocution is the number one cause of death in underwater welders. I can understand the relationship: 

Water and electricity = the unpredictability of electrical current in the welding electrode. Electricity fires into the surrounding water and destroys the underwater welder. The related annual death rate is 5 out of nearly 3,000 full-time underwater welders. It reported that drowning was the number one cause of death. 

Due to the small population size in this area, large studies on underwater welders’ life expectancy are still limited. 

Yet wet welding is a lot more precise science than people attribute it to. Welder-divers take every precaution when adding metal to the water, including extra protection in a rubberized dry suit. Also, underwater welding is just a small part of the responsibility of underwater welders. Salvage, inspections, and material installations are all part of what they do. 

Working Conditions and Environment 

Underwater welding conditions may differ greatly, but these people are still working outside and in and out of the water. This can be very dangerous work, as diving itself can be dangerous. However, it is much less risky to know and follow the correct protocol. Welders may operate under any number of conditions, including cold and rain, rougher seas, or calm, warm waters. 

Hours for this type of work may be long and intermittent, and the actual work may be very erratic. Since many of these jobs are contract-based, underwater welders may be forced to travel around the world for their work. They will usually work hard before a specific job is finished, so they can encounter hard work seasons interspersed with lulls where they don’t have anything to do but brush up on their personal skills and find new jobs to work on. 

Underwater welding school 

CDA TECHNICAL INSTITUTE 
91 Trout River Drive
Jacksonville, FL 32208

DIVERS ACADEMY INTERNATIONAL
Lakeside Business Park
1500 Liberty Place
Erial, NJ 08081-1139

DIVERS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
4315 11th Avenue, N.W.
P.O. Box 70667
Seattle, WA 98107-0667

HYDROWELD USA
Dept.114 Dockside Circle
Weston, Florida 33327

INTERNATIONAL DIVING INSTITUTE
1400 Pierside Street
Bldg. 190, Suite CN.
Charleston, SC 29405USA

NATIONAL UNIVERSITY POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE
3580 Aero Court
San Diego, CA. 92123

Conclusion 

In general, underwater welders have a relatively high earning capacity. If you choose the underwater welding profession, you need to be competent in dry-and wet-welding, and you can face a range of dangers, including delta P hazards, electrical shock, fires, and hypothermia. 

In order to qualify as an underwater welder, minimize these risks, and ensure the maximum possible earnings, you must undergo comprehensive training from an accredited school. There are various institutions to choose from, and choose the one that best fits your needs; you need to factor in location, prices, program length, and work placement-and scholarship assistance. 

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