I just turned 23 years old on September fifth – the same day that I passed my welding certification test – that was probably the best birthday present that I could ask for.
Achievements & Experience in Topside Welding
The person that sparked my interest to go into commercial diving was my welding teacher from high school, but at the time I didn’t think about diving; I just thought about underwater welding. I didn’t even understand the concept of what all it took to get into underwater welding, and I also didn’t understand that I would be doing much more than just welding.
All of the welding experience that I gained was from three years in high school at our local career center in Michigan. I excelled in all types of welding there, except stick welding, ironically. I actually went to state and placed second in MIG welding.
All of my experience was basically with a wire welder, although the previous year I did make it to regional’s for an overall welding competition where TIG, MIG, stick, acetylene and cutting were the five required weld processes. I had a great teacher from 2006-2009 that really sparked my passion for welding.
Transition to Training: Commercial Diving School
I went to college at western Michigan university for three and a half years, and one semester before graduation I decided to go for what I really wanted to do all along, and that was get involved in commercial diving and underwater welding.
I applied for the International Diving Institute in Charleston, South Carolina, two months before my start date: May 5, 2014. It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life. The program is only four months long, but they really drill the information that is needed in so you get a good idea of what you need to know.
The most important aspect of diving, as we learned, is safety.
Dive Projects in the Blind
One project that we had to work on while we were there that was particularly fun was the pipeline project. All of our work was done in the Cooper River with about two feet of visibility so everything is somewhat tough, but I feel it’s the best training to work in a difficult environment because then you are prepared for the worst when you get into the field.
Some days the cooper would be 3 – 4 feet of visibility which was nice – those were the easy days. But, back to the pipeline project, we had to place four pipes along with one 90-degree elbow off a connector at the base of a piling that was under the deck.
Each diver that went in (there were eight in my class) had to use lift bags to put the pipe in the proper location, secure a gasket and four bolts into the pipe to connect it to either the other pipe or the one 90 degree elbow. Once we had secured all of the pipes and gaskets, we placed a gate valve at the end and pressurized the pipe to check for any leaks. After we found the pipe to be leak free, we could dismantle it.
This was my favorite project is because it took some thinking. Some of the pipes flanges at the end had different sizes than others, so we were required to figure out the placement procedure before we put the pipes in the water. We had to use a lot of teamwork to ensure that the diver in the water would receive the right end and know which end to place on the previous pipe in low-visibility water.
We made it through the project without a hitch; we always worked great together as a team, and there was no task that we couldn’t figure out. I was blessed to be in a class full of guys that were all very smart, and between us and our experience, there wasn’t much we couldn’t do.
Underwater Welding Certification: Class B
My motivation to earn the Class B underwater welding certificate came from wanting to become an underwater welder since high school. I knew that if I was a commercial diver with the certificate, it could help me to find a job faster, as I would have more qualifications.
More qualifications means more opportunity.
I also took the HAZWOPER course to help with employment. But it’s not just the employability, as I would say, it is more that I have always wanted to do this. It’s the dedication to sticking with my decisions that put me here.
Certification Details & Requirements
The actual weld that I had to do for the underwater welding Class B certification was a 12-inch-long T-joint on half-inch plate, and the procedure was a vertical down. It was challenging because I had a lack of experience in stick welding to begin with, but I had to try.
I hadn’t welded for about four years leading up to coming to this school, so I my skills were a bit rusty; I had to make up for it welding in the shop whenever I got some free time.
It is a completely different environment and weld movement underwater, but it does help to be able to see the bead and weld puddle and understand how to control it. For the test I ran:
- 1 root pass
- 1 cover pass
These consisted of two beads lying next to each other, yet bonded to lie as flat as possible.
Four Tests to Pass
Once I completed the weld, I sent it up to the surface and they tested it. The test consisted of a visual inspection where the inspectors make sure the weld looks good enough to hold. Then, they cut three inches off each end of the weld to check for holes on the inside of the weld material.
Once that test passed, they applied acid to the area that was cut to see where the penetration on the weld was and to ensure that there was enough penetration. After the acid test passed, the inspectors went on to break the weld plates in half to ensure that there was no slag on the inside of the weld material and to ensure that it held properly. I made it through!
Practice, Practice: Welding in the Tank
Before I attempted the class B certification, I practiced welding for two weeks straight in our weld tank. For the first week, we practiced on quarter-inch steel in order to get our root passes done correctly and to get the idea and feel of welding underwater.
Then we switched to 1/2 inch steel the second week. During the week, we performed vertical down T-joint welds the entire time; there were books to read and look at, but all of us had the experience in welding so we knew what we were looking for once we started. We spent most of our time in the welding tank.
As far as I know, the only certificate better than this class B certificate is the class A certification, and I would like to earn that one day soon. I could use some more experience underwater before I try it, but I will surely be attempting that certification soon.
From Nuke Diving to Supervisor
My main career goal is to get with a company like Underwater Construction Company which does nuke diving and underwater welding. I have each of the required certifications and being somewhere I can use them all would be the ideal opportunity.
I want to be a lead diver and eventually a supervisor or superintendent, but for now I would like to get some dive time, and I wouldn’t mind doing that for about 10 years before attempting to become a supervisor or even more.
When it comes to offshore or inland, as long as I can acquire a good job it really doesn’t matter now. I’m just interested in getting to work, and I am open to any company that will give me the opportunity to work where I can use my certifications.
Before Attempting: Be Certain and Committed
My advice to anyone wanting to take on this career, look into it and make sure it is something that you want to do. If it is something that you are interested in then go for it!
Commercial diving is not easy, but if it’s really what you want to do, it’s fun and a new experience that not a lot of people will ever get the chance to be a part of. As long as you are dedicated and hardworking you can do anything that you want, just make sure you have fun with it.
– Logan Lodesma, graduate of International Diving Institute and certified commercial diver.