Underwater Welding – When you think a professional welder earns much in a year, then you haven’t heard about the underwater welder. The welder can easily earn $50K – $80K a year but an underwater welder can earn twice as much in a year without having to work as much as a common welder.
However, it’s not the only thing you should know about the underwater welder. Behind the story of the highly-paid job such as underwater welding, there are more you should discover before you decide if it’s a risk worth taking or a battle worth fighting. What are those? Make sure you take your time to read this article.
Table of Contents :
Underwater Welding Is:
What Is Underwater Welding?
The title pretty much gave it away, it’s welding done underwater. Components that are submerged in water such as pipeline, offshore platform’s jacket, and ship, sometimes experience failure and need to be repaired. It’s impossible to just lift that component out of water and weld repair it on the surface. So there’s an alternative that costs much less by training welders how to dive and equipping them with tools that allow them to weld underwater.
How To Weld Underwater?
There are 2 methods to weld underwater. Dry welding (a.k.a hyperbaric welding) and wet welding (a.k.a underwater welding). In dry welding, the welding is done inside a pressurized chamber that allows the welding process to take place in an environment free from water. Various welding processes such as Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW), Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), and Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) can be used to weld inside the hyperbaric chamber.
The absence of water allows greater control of the environment thus producing a greater quality of weld joint. Inside a hyperbaric chamber, it’s possible to control variables such as heat input and it’s also possible to give heat treatment. However, due to technological limitations, dry welding is not recommended to be done in the depth greater than 500 meters due to the elevated pressure that can compromise the safety of the diver and the welding result.
In wet welding, the process is directly exposed to the water, therefore it’s very dangerous for the welder because of the electrocution danger and it can also disturb the welding process. To cover this, the electricity is controlled with a switch that will only close when the welder starts welding and will open when the welder is not, especially when the welder is changing the electrode (because this method is mostly done using SMAW process).
The electrode is covered in flux that can resist water contamination and produce a gas bubble on the weld crater for the metal transfer. The main issue of this method is the environment because the surrounding water can freely interact with the weld joint unlike in the hyperbaric method.
Therefore it’s highly possible for a defect such as porosity to happen, not to mention the metallurgical problem that happens because of the rapid cooling of the weld metal. Although it’s much simpler compared to the hyperbaric method, this method is not so reliable for a quality joint and only serve as an emergency response.
The Requirement For Underwater Welder?
Actually, underwater welding is not the kind of job that needs you to stick around for a certain period of time under a contract just like any other kind of welding job. Despite its high paying advantage, the job is quite rare, it’s mostly a short-term contract for the welder to repair something when it’s broken and just that.
While some ships might employ underwater welder in case of emergency, but the availability of the job is still sparse. Most companies would rather employ a freelance underwater welder in case of an emergency rather than keeping one around. However, it’s still good to be able to weld underwater during an emergency and still remain a welder at other time.
While the requirements are different from every company administration standpoint, basically you’re still required to be a good welder. Perhaps the term “good” doesn’t really describe it well for you to understand. The term good here meaning you’re capable of producing a sound weld proven by a certificate.
Yup, you should be a certified welder. There are many kinds of certification out there, even the company that will hire you also carry their own certification to test their applications. So, it’s recommended to know what kind of job you’re going to do before applying.
It’s not that hard to get a certificate as long as you’re committed enough. But there’s another important requirement, it’s the ability to dive. It’s not an easy task to dive let alone diving while welding. You have to apply to any professional diving school and get certified to prove yourself that you’re skilled enough in diving before being tested to weld underwater.
It is worth mentioning that diving is a dangerous activity with so many hazards and potential danger, therefore you should never apply under the fake certificate. Perhaps it will get you the job, but the risk down there is not worth it if you’re incompetent. It may cost you your life.
The Hazard Of Welding Underwater
Welding underwater means you weld in an elevated pressure environment. The danger could be fatal and direct toward your body. In an elevated pressure environment, the surrounding pressure can easily crush you if you’re deep enough. A failure of your breathing apparatus or diving suit can instantly drown you and kill you under the pressure.
There is also a technique that you need to master underwater, such as how to resurface, because moving from higher to lower pressure area can cause the gas inside your body to expand and damage your organ. It is why a diver should be properly trained to remove and minimize the danger of underwater pressure.
The surrounding water is also a hazard because arc welding involves electricity. There are cases of the electrocuted welder and even explosion because of the reaction of water, heat, and electricity. The technology of underwater welding is still developing a method to be able to weld safely and soundly, the hyperbaric chamber is the result of the advancement. Underwater animals can also be a potential danger. Adding another risk to work underwater.
Underwater Welding Salary:
While the pay is handsome, underwater welding also comes with so many risks that you might want to re-evaluate your choice. The sea is never a friendly environment. The high pressure is a danger, the electricity is a danger, the chemical reaction is a danger, and even the surrounding water is also a potential danger.
Besides being able to produce a sound weld, an underwater welder must also be skilled in diving. Those aforementioned risk and skill requirements are the things that make underwater welding as one of the most highly-paid trade jobs in the world. The skilled welder is just as rare as the job availability itself, but once you’re in, you’ll experience the opportunity to grow to face the challenge and travel the world achieving wonder.