Weld My World - Welding News

Challenges of Underwater Welding


Whether you call it underwater welding, wet welding, or dive welding – the challenges are the same. Subsea diver-welders work hard to maintain submerged infrastructure. Perils include the obvious, being deep below the surface while wearing heavy equipment, having limited visibility, and currents making movement more difficult. But have you also considered the challenges that come with consistency (or lack thereof) of skills and education, outlook for the future, and the transitory lifestyle?


Entry into this specialized welding field is different than other jobs. Rather than getting a grant, scholarship, or government funding to go to college, getting an apprenticeship and national qualifications – the diving industry is primarily filled by sub-contractors and the self-employed. The commonplace route of education and qualification just isn’t common. This means that individual skills of a diver are their responsibility, not that of an employer. Calls for an industry standard of qualification have been heard.

A practical weld test in which a welder demonstrates their physical skills and abilities would be the answer. A welder’s craftsmanship, skill, and physical ability all need to be tested. In this individual field the responsibility lays solely on a welder (not foreman, senior workers, supervisors, or inspectors).

Diver-welders have the pressure of possibly being the only competent welder at an offshore site. They need to know how to work with people from all backgrounds, have incredible physical skills, and of course deposit weld metal. Welders need to have a set of skills/knowledge that includes safety, weld techniques, material knowledge, weldability, electrodes, terminology, plant/equipment, weld defects, standards, and more.

Getting real life experience isn’t always easy to come by. The equipment is costly and so is the time of qualified instructors.


Few are the lines of work where one small mistake could incur millions of dollars of damage to underwater infrastructure or worse, put your own life on the line. Regulations, technology, and training have taken out some of the risk seen in years past, but diving doesn’t mean simply admiring the surroundings and going for a light swim. Hard work is done subsea, with little help. And, as mentioned earlier, the skills of others on an offshore site might not be at the level one would hope for.

The sea used to take the lives of nine or ten divers each year a few decades ago. Though greatly reduced, there is still an element of risk. There is little room for error at these depths. The International Marine Contractors Association has set limits on the length of time that divers can work, maintenance requirements for diving equipment, and the extent of training required. The commercial diving industry is now much safer than it was in the past.

On the other hand, some feel regulations have gone too far. So far that they interfere with actually getting the job done. Regulations may be cast aside in favor of working more quickly or working in poor conditions.


Diving is a transitory lifestyle. Work takes divers around the world. They are paid a daily rate. Full-time regular employment is rare. The freelance, sub-contract lifestyle means divers get to decide when, where, and how much they work, but it isn’t always easy to find said work. As a diver-welder you may find yourself in the Gulf of Mexico, the Middle East, or the North Sea. Securing a visa is sometimes a challenge for migrant workers; as is finding competitive wages in parts of the world that don’t offer the rate you’re accustomed to.

The life of a diver-welder is certainly not a boring one. If you’re interested in this type of work, a quality education and plenty of practice, combined with a desire for adventure and a nomadic lifestyle, will be your keys to success.



Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.