Diving Inspection – a career insight

Clayton Webb is now an underwater dive inspector. He spent over three years working for TWI as an underwater inspection lecturer where he taught the CSWIP 3.1u, 3.2u and wet welding courses. We talk to Clayton to find out about his career and how he became involved in the world of underwater inspection.

Diving Inspection - a career insight

How did you first become involved in inspection?

When I left school, I completed a mechanical engineering apprenticeship at TWI Ltd where I was able to do three months in every department. This allowed me to get an extremely broad range of knowledge of welding and welding related research.

The departments included arc welding and fabrication, electron beam and friction stir welding, H2s and corrosion, metallurgy, resonance testing, fatigue and non-destructive testing. I found three departments especially interesting; arc welding, electron beam and NDT.

When I’d completed my three months in every department, between the company and myself we decided where I was needed within the business. This was also influenced by what I found most interesting and ultimately in areas where I was keen to build a career. During the three months I spent in NDT, I do remember being interested in techniques being used to assess a particular component’s integrity without destroying it.

Did you always know you wanted to work offshore?

No, not really. I have just taken it step by step and I have ended up where I have ended up. I would quite readily take an inspection or diving position away from the oil and gas industry if the offer was right. I would like to see what the nuclear industry is all about.

What did you need to qualify as a diving inspector?

An HSE approved commercial diving qualification and a CSWIP inspection certificate such as a CSWIP 3.1u or 3.2u. All of my surface NDT qualifications are pretty much irrelevant underwater and specialist underwater certifications are required. They do give me a much greater and more in-depth knowledge than the material taught on the underwater courses though. They are much more specific. For example, a surface ultrasonic level 2 course will take 3 weeks, whereas an ultrasonic lecture in the underwater courses may only be half a day.

Do you prefer working underwater or on surface?

I would be lying if I said that I still don’t enjoy diving and being underwater. (This is especially true when in hot water!!!) At the moment I am currently working primarily as a diver but am also completing various NDT projects when the diving slows down during winter. I am actually working as a welding inspector at the moment on an offshore repair job. I really enjoy being involved within welding projects and find it’s always busy so the time away passes quickly.

How easy is it to find work as a diver?

Diving is competitive as there are a lot of divers for the amount of diving work required. This applies both inshore and offshore. Getting in with companies is difficult as they receive lots of CVs every day. Only very few have permanent contracts, so the majority of the time you are always chasing the next bit of work. This unpredictability of work schedule can be testing as when work comes up, a lot of plans get cancelled and life goes on without you when you’re away!

Are there opportunities for career development?

I think within the diving industry you are pretty much restricted to DMT (diver medic training), CSWIP 3.1u/3.2u inspection and rigging. These courses are not cheap and need renewing after a set period of validity.

Within NDT there are lots of different techniques that you can train in, and the more you get the more likely you are to be suitable for a specific NDT task. In my opinion, becoming a ‘specialist’ in a particular set of techniques would be better for quality within the industry.

I see career development as a constant process and it could be as simple as gaining more experience. I am still learning all the time and no one knows everything about everything. This year I am hoping to further my ultrasonic welding inspection.

Where in the world can these jobs take you?

Anywhere! I have been quite boring when it comes to travel and pretty much stuck to the UK and North Sea. I taught underwater inspection over in Pattaya, Thailand for a while too. That was an experience, Thai’s are very friendly! I am off to Abu Dhabi soon though which I am looking forward to!

I have friends who are also NDT technicians and have worked in Libya, Cameroon, Israel, Alaska, Bahamas and Saudi Arabia to name just a few. Diving can take you to some interesting places inland in the UK too that many people don’t get to see. Last year I dived 130ft to the bottom of a 1740s flooded mine! The restoration engineer wasn’t particularly impressed when I described it as ‘just a big hole’ though.

Do you like the travel?

I’m not saying this is always the case, but most of the time when working in oil and gas, you are stuck on a platform or ship in the middle of the sea with nothing but water around you for 150 miles – so except for the weather and maybe the conditions… things can be very similar, just in different parts of the world.

If you weren’t diving or doing inspection, what would you be doing?

Teaching it. I worked for TWI as an underwater inspection lecturer where I taught the CSWIP 3.1u, 3.2u and wet welding courses for three and half years. I had a great time doing that! I met a lot of fantastic people and I was passionate about the subjects that I taught. A lot of my students became good friends of mine and I’m still in contact with them now. I do work at TWI as a consultant when my work schedule allows, which I always thoroughly look forward to.