Welding skills open the door to a wide variety of careers, in industry, manufacturing, construction, heavy machinery, engineering, robotics, and many more. In the Hampton Roads area, one of the best jobs a welder can aspire to is in the maritime industry.
Opportunities in Maritime Welding
In our region, most welders will be working in the container shipping industry. There’s usually steady work in this field, and it’s a good area to learn the ropes as an apprentice. By building skills in maritime welding, novices can get practical experience and hone their craft for a few years, and then if they choose, take those skills to any part of the world where maritime welders are needed.
Shipyards typically hire welders as independent contractors when they have large contracts. You might be building anything from an aircraft carrier to a research vessel, traveling to ports where the work is done, for jobs lasting anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. If you’ve got the travel bug then maritime welding could open up doors to jobs all over the world, from the Americas to Asia.
Another desirable maritime welding job is maintaining and repairing passenger ships. Welders may find themselves living on the ship as it cruises the world, as pipes and welds are continuously needing repair in the challenging maritime environment. Welders in these jobs might have free room and board, meals prepared by a chef, and access to some of the same amenities other passengers and crew members use when aboard ship.
Maritime welders might also work as contractors for the U.S. military, which not only would open up jobs right here in the Hampton Roads area, but any place worldwide where the yourself. You might even find yourself traveling to hot spots, helping to support our nation’s service people on their missions.
Typical Day of a Maritime Welder
While jobs in the maritime welding industry can vary greatly, you may wonder what a typical day would be like. More than likely, you’d be working with different materials from day to day, using blueprints to guide you in a shipyard setting. You might be welding steel, aluminum, flux core copper nickel, or other metals. It could be a plus if you have experience or certification as a crane operator or rigger.
Most likely, you’d be performing drydock welding with a technique called electric arc welding, the most common type of welding used in shipyards, where you cut metal seams and fill indentations, seams, and holes.
Why Safety is so Important to Welders
A big part of a shipyard welder’s job is knowing and practicing safety procedures. The welder starts the day by putting on protective gear, possibly a helmet, as well as a respirator, ear muffs or ear plugs, safety boots, thick gloves, protective glasses, and visor, plus fire- or flame-resistant clothing and aprons. This gear helps protect the welder against toxic fumes, welder’s flash, and hearing loss.
Be aware that there are certain types of welding glasses to be used for particular welding techniques; welders should never substitute with sunglasses or modified glasses. Welders must check scaffolding and rails, and use lanyards and harnesses when working in high locations.
The experienced welder must also set up equipment properly so as to avoid electrocution or burns. Cables are checked for leaks, and welding leads for frays and other flaws.
A welder must sometimes stay in a cramped position for long periods while welding on a ship, which leads to muscle fatigue. Welders cannot afford to let their attention wander, as defective welds can risk the ship and the lives of everyone aboard. To avoid fatigue and lack of concentration, a welder should take a break every couple of hours.
A Welder’s Education
Welding offers competitive and sometimes excellent pay for a job that does not require a bachelor’s degree. Most welders break into the field with a high school degree or GED, and then start for an employer as an apprentice.
However, enrolling in a vocational school program usually helps provide the welder with a more well-rounded training, so that by the time the course is completed, the student has some solid skills to offer. Often, apprentices start working for an employer while enrolled in a vocational welding program.
Many employers these days are looking for workers who are not only trained in the various welding techniques, such as MIG, TIG, stick, and gas arc welding, but also have some basics in physics, chemistry, math, welding equipment care, blueprint reading, and metallurgy.
Do You Want to Weld with a Formal Education Behind You?
If you think a career as a maritime welder in the Hampton Roads area might be for you, contact Advanced Technology Institute today for more information about an Associate of Occupational Science Degree in Maritime Welding Technology with Service Management.