When a ship sinks or is damaged, marine salvage companies send crews to recover the ship. A salvage crew will repair a ship, drag it to port or recover only the ship's cargo. The crews include officers, mates and engineers present on all maritime vessels, as well as divers, welders and technicians capable of maintaining and operating specialized salvage equipment. Apart from a few overarching requirements, all of these crew members require different kinds of training.
Becoming a Mariner
Marine salvage workers are subject to the same licensing and certification requirements as all maritime workers. The most basic of these is a Merchant Mariner's Document, which the Crowley Maritime Corporation's guide for people new to the marine industry describes as working basically like a driver's license to indicate experience and qualification. MMDs rate mariners based on days of service on a boat. While classes aren't required to progress through the ratings, many institutions offer apprenticeship programs designed to advance mariners from entry-level to mid-level ratings in one or two years. These programs can be useful for people who want to be chief officers, mates or engineers on a marine salvage vessel, but an entry-level MMD is adequate for welders, electricians and divers.
Marine Salvage workers who intend to work on large vessels that travel more than 100 miles from shore must meet requirements set by the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Convention. All crew members must take a class called Basic Safety Training, which teaches personal safety, survival techniques, first aid and firefighting. These classes generally take 40 hours over five days and are available at many colleges, especially those near coasts, and specialized maritime institutions. Higher-ranking crew are often required to have additional training. Near-shore and river marine salvage companies often do not require this training.
Beyond training required for basic maritime certifications, the most useful classes for marine salvage workers involve skills with salvage-specific applications. One of the most valuable skills in marine salvage is diving. When boats sink, marine salvage workers must reach their resting places, which are often deep underwater. To do this, marine salvage workers must have commercial diving certificates, which require the completion of a commercial diver-training program. These programs usually take between two and 12 months to complete and cost between $8,000 and $20,000, depending on the extensiveness of the curriculum, according to "Dive Training" magazine.
Another valuable skill in marine salvage is welding. Welders who work in marine salvage perform on-site repairs on damaged ships and break down wrecked ships in order either to have them in smaller, easier-to-transport pieces or to get to otherwise inaccessible valuable cargo. Marine salvage companies look for welders who are certified in both underwater and out-of-water welding. Underwater training is offered mostly by technical institutions and specialized diving schools. Some companies require certification for specific metals. Cal Dive International, for example, looks for welders certified to work on carbon steel between 1.6 and 37mm thick.
Other Specialized Instruction
Marine salvage companies employ all sorts of people with specialized skills other than diving and welding. Many crews have technicians and electricians to keep the diving and welding equipment in working order. These people typically have electrical engineering certificates or degrees. Some marine salvage companies use remotely operated vehicles to explore underwater wreck sites that might be too dangerous for divers. The people who pilot and maintain these vehicles typically must have training in electronics and hydraulics.
- \# Crowley Maritime Corporation: I'm New to the Marine Industry
- California State University Maritime: STCW Basic Training
- Global Diving & Salvage: Rov Operator - CA
- Sailors' Union of the Pacific: General Requirements For A Merchant Mariner’s Document (MMD)
- Dive Training Magazine: Getting in Deep
- American Welding Society: Underwater Welding Schools
- International Marine Contractors Association: I Want to Be A ROV Pilot/Technician
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images