Underwater-welding

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What is in here for me?

Underwater-welding, is one of the best examples of adapting well known processes to unusual conditions.

In this case it is about diving and working in the harsh and dangerous sea environment.

It demonstrates the outstanding achievements that necessity, ingenuity and continuing efforts could accomplish.

It was mostly to save huge investments in ships and offshore structures damaged and in need of repair.


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What is there, deep under water?

The advantages, for marine structures owners, are of economical nature.

Underwater-welding for maintenance and repair jobs bypasses the costly need to pull the structure out of the sea and saves much valuable time.

If one thinks of welding the hull of a ship while in the water or of a partially submerged oil drilling tower, one understands that the alternative, of working in a dry dock, may be extremely expensive, if at all possible.

The limitations of Underwater welding concern the inevitable bulky and expensive setup.

That is needed to provide the welder with all the necessary support for respiration, for protection from cold, for special welding equipment, for remote surveillance camera, for unique non destructive testing.


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Is Underwater-welding risky? Does it Pay?

The main risks for the welder performing Underwater-welding are

  • the potential for electric shock,
  • the possibility of producing in the arc mixtures of hydrogen and oxygen in pockets, which might set up an explosion,
  • and the common danger sustained by divers, of having nitrogen diffuse in blood in dangerous proportions.

Curiously, the risk of drowning is not listed with the hazards of welding under the water, possibly because such jobs are usually performed by teams who can promptly come to rescue the diver-welder in danger.

As for the Pay commanded by expert welders, it is considered relatively higher than that paid for easier jobs on land. The jobs of welding underwater are physically demanding, and generally far from home, for long stretches of time.

Originally there were no quality requirements. Underwater-welding was just applied to weld a patch until a more thorough repair could be performed in a dry dock. But as soon as more experience was gained, ambitious individuals and companies joined forces to improve results and to establish achievable specifications.

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Let us continue...

... with some more details on underwater welding. There are three main ways to perform it practically.

One way is to build an enclosure, a pit, around the place of repair and to pump away all the water: that amounts to prepare the conditions for normal welding in air, although the place may be under sea level.

Another method of Underwater-welding consists in preparing an enclosure to be filled with gas (helium) under high pressure (hyperbaric) to push water back, and have the welder, fitted with breathing mask and other protective equipment, weld quite normally out of water but under pressure.

The third way is the wet welding method, where no attempts are made to dry up the location of welding.

Instead the power of the arc generates a bubble of a mixture of gases which lets metal melting and joining occur more or less normally, using specially covered electrodes to avoid that too much hydrogen be absorbed in the weld.

The skilled welder must also be trained as a commercial diver, equipped for Underwater-welding, with all the extra equipment and protection a welder must use.

There is also a less used welding underwater method which features a special torch which sprays a cone of high pressure water, within which protective gas under pressure insulates the weld location from the water during welding.

The previous Specification concerning Underwater-welding is now superseded by the recent Underwater Welding Code.

ANSI/AWS D3.6M:2010
Underwater Welding Code
Edition: 5th
American Welding Society / 10-Sep-2010 / 144 pages

Underwater-welding - Should I take the plunge?

Basic information and suggestions on this subject can be found by clicking on Taking the Plunge.

A short list of educational facilities preparing candidates to become Certified Underwater Welders is available by clicking on Underwater-welding Schools.

Note: This welding process performed under water has nothing to do and should not be confused with Submerged Arc Welding which is a specialized process described in the pages on Arc Welding and on Submerged Arc Welding Tips, and which is performed outside water.

An Article on Developments in Underwater wet Welding was published In Section 11 in Issue 29 of Practical Welding Letter for January 2006.
To read the article click on PWL#029.

Two short notes on special processes were published in our monthly Practical Welding Letter.

Underwater Flash Butt Welding of Pipes can be found (2) at
PWL#069.

Friction Taper Plug Welding is at (11),
PWL#097.

A recent development, of Underwater Laser Beam Welding was reported in an article whose link is give in Section 5.2 in Issue 106 of Practical Welding Letter for June 2012.
Click on PWL#106 to see it.

An Article on How to do it well: Underwater Inspection and Welding was published (3) in Issue 116 of Practical Welding Letter for October 2013.
Click on PWL#116 to see it.

An Article on Remotely Operated Underwater Friction Welding Technology was published (11) in Issue 134 of Practical Welding Letter for October 2014.
Click on PWL#134 to see it.

An Article on Induction Heating Assisted Underwater Wet Welding was published (11) in Issue 138 of Practical Welding Letter for February 2015.
Click on PWL#138 to see it.

Note: On the same subject see also a new Page with deeper insight and current developments.
Click on Welding Underwater.


We are glad and proud of having been authorized by the Author
to present hereafter a few excerpts from the following book.

We believe that "A Welder's Mate" is essential reading for anyone serious with learning and practicing Underwater Welding, and a useful manual for every surface welder.

We urge our readers to read the first Excerpt by clicking on
A Case for Wet Welding. (Opens new page).

Book Cover A Welder's Mate

We recommend the second edition of this book.
A great reference manual for all experienced welders, and a great source of technical data.
It is a must for every diver serious about welding.
The Index includes subjects as Equipment, Health & Safety, Underwater Welding Parameters, Welding Electrodes, Terminology and much more.
Click on the image to see the book cover.(Requires Acrobat Reader).

To Order the Book...

To purchase the New Edition of the Book
Underwater Wet Welding - A Welder's Mate -
by David J. Keats,
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Watch the following Video on

Commercial Diver Underwater Welding


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