Dive In... The Water is Fine
For Standard Diving & Marine Contractors, working in the nation’s most efficient port means being an efficient company.
During a routine underwater video inspection, divers from Standard Diving & Marine Contracting discovered the bow thruster seal on the USNS DAHL was leaking and needed to be replaced. To save the shipping company unscheduled dry-dock costs as well as keeping the vessel on schedule, the SDMC crew designed, manufactured, and installed a cofferdam that enabled divers to conduct all repair work underwater “in the dry.” The entire operation was videotaped with the ship\’s engineer viewing the process, and more importantly, all work was completed in-house, with the actual repair work taking only two days.
The cofferdam installation is a perfect example of the need for a seasoned, experienced dive crew with expertise beyond merely diving. Gary Weaks, president of SDMC, has more than 25 years experience in the commercial diving business. He recognizes the need for diversity and specialized skills in the industry.
“Working from a port that’s world-renowned for being the most productive and efficient in North America, time is of the essence,” Weaks says. “Believe me, you don’t want a vessel delayed in this port because it’s waiting on divers. In a business largely built by reputation, it is integral to be efficient, professional, and prepared for anything. When something is needed, there’s no time to search for outside service providers. You have to make sure your crew is widely experienced and that you have the state-of-the-art equipment it takes to tackle whatever arises.”
Although many other industries need commercial diving services, the company’s mainstay – and Weaks’ passion – is ship’s husbandry, including video inspection. “We do it all below the water line,” Weaks says of the company’s diversity. “One of our upcoming jobs is inspecting 50 bridges for the South Carolina Department of Transportation. But ship’s husbandry is our specialty; it’s what we’re known for and the most important service we provide.”
Weaks notes the company’s best asset is experience. “No matter what state-of-the-art equipment you have, no matter how many divers you field, there’s no substitute for experience.”
Experience Weaks has. He began his career with Navy Diving School and became a First Class Navy Diver, providing ship’s husbandry to Naval surface ships and submarines. He’s also taught commercial diving in Florida and worked off-shore in the Louisiana and Mexican Gulfs before relocating to Charleston in 1976. He began his career in the Port of Charleston working as a diver in the Navy and in the Navy Shipyard. He formed his own commercial diving company in 1987.
Weaks expects from his Standard Diving & Marine Contractors crews a wide range of experience and expertise, such as an average of 15 years commercial dive experience per diver. “My crew is top-notch,” he says. “They’re the biggest reason for SDMC's success. Surface-supply diving with umbilicals, live inspections with constant communication to customers and engineers, unexpected circumstances which arise with even routine jobs – all these factors are a constant in this industry and are a good reason to have the best crew in the business. Of course, having all the right equipment helps, too.”
The underwater inspections and repair services SDMC provides are imperative to the shipping industry and can often save a vessel unwanted dry-dock fees. SDMC performs an inspection and repair operation with a live, closed-circuit, broadcast quality video system that can be viewed from a vessel or from the mobile dive command center.
“Some strange things can happen to ships when they’re coming into port,” says Weaks. “A good inspection and repair job can keep the ship moving until its next scheduled dry-dock.”
Along with inspections and repair work, SDMC also performs other services for the shipping industry. Wheel polishing, hull cleaning, cofferdam installation and underwater photography are routinely requested.
Business is booming, Weaks notes, and hopes to continue the trend with Standard Diving & Marine Contractors newest edition to the fleet, the dive vessel Beowulf, a converted ex-Coast Guard fire and rescue vessel, which Weaks says is ideal for in-water inspections in lieu of dry-docking as well as other underwater visual and video inspections that can be conducted in the high-visibility water conditions that exist just off-shore at Charleston.
With 15 years in business, Standard Diving & Marine Contractors is accredited by all major class societies and can meet the needs of any vessel coming into port. More information about the company’s upcoming and past projects can be found at www.standarddiving.com.