Case Studies

Global Diving & Salvage Inc.

Driving Maritime Operations with Expertise that Runs Deep

Global Diving & Salvage Inc. (Global Diving) is going where most contractors cannot with experience that runs deep – up to 1,000 feet deep to be precise. The Seattle-based underwater marine contractor has quickly emerged as the largest of its kind on the West Coast and a key player in the $4.1 billion marine construction and $331 million marine salvage industries.

“We genuinely feel like we are the predominate sub-sea marine construction diving company in the country,” shares Devon Grennan, president of Global Diving.

Global Diving was launched by a small group of professional divers, including Tim Beaver and John Graham, co-founders and current owners. Beaver and Graham dove together in the mid-1970s and decided to leave a previous employer. “They made the decision to go it alone,” recalls Grennan.

Rising to the Top from the Bottom Up

Along with five others, Beaver and Graham teamed up to provide day-to-day diving, ship husbandry, marine construction, small vessel salvage and spill response in Washington’s Puget Sound region. The philosophy was simple: provide tough, smart, professional service for the maritime community while delivering outstanding customer service and focusing on employee safety.

“The company was incorporated in 1980 and it came to be known for its tenacious approach to every job,” the company’s website reads. “Each task was treated as the most important project on the books, from simple vessel surveys to fully managed wreck removals,” the excerpt continues.

But things didn’t take off immediately. While starting Global Diving, Beaver and Graham relied heavily on jobs at Todd Pacific Shipyards on Harbor Island. “It took us about five years before we could pay ourselves a decent salary,” shares Beaver.

The company based its service on the premise that crews were available anytime of the day or night. “We never wanted to tell a customer that we couldn’t do something or give them a reason to look elsewhere,” explains Graham. “When other companies did that, their customers came to us and we never let them down.”

As a result, Global Diving has grown rapidly over the last 35 years. “We’ve grown so much over the last decade to the point where Seattle is still our home but we also have offices in Anchorage, Houston and the San Francisco Bay area,” notes Grennan. “We now have 350 employees depending on the seasonality of our work.”

A Growing Presence

While expanding its national reach, Global Diving has also entered new and challenging markets, diversifying services in four main areas: salvage or casualty response, offshore diving for the oil and gas industry, environmental services and marine construction. Global Diving remains one of the few full-service underwater marine contractors offering project management, in-house engineering, marine and upland environmental services and the full spectrum of commercial diving service.

“We do a great job of blending technical construction projects with remotely operated vehicles [ROV] inspection and deep diving, folding it all into one package which we deliver in-house,” details Grennan. “We can do the normal, subsea construction work people think of like wrapping concrete piles, but more importantly we’re working on dams, potable water reservoirs and hydro electric facilities. This niche takes more engineering and specialized tooling.”

A Unique Breed

Grennan says Global Diving’s biggest asset is its people. “Divers are a unique breed because diving is just your vehicle get to the job site, you have to have skills once you get there,” he explains. “Our divers are welders, fabricators, riggers, carpenters and mechanically inclined individuals able to handle pressure and diverse situations.”

Grennan goes on to explain that the company doesn’t have a lot of capital assets. “So, our main investment is in our personnel,” he continues. “We spend a lot of time training and developing in our field staff and in turn, our expertise sets us apart from the rest.”

The experience of Global Diving’s crews played a major role in one of the company’s most complicated, nail-biting projects to-date: The Delaware Aqueduct. This major piece of infrastructure carries approximately half of New York City’s fresh water from upstate New York through an 85-mile tunnel.

“One of the shafts along the multi-mile line connected to the aqueduct at the deepest part of the tunnel,” reveals Mike Langen, vice president of Marine Construction. “The aqueduct had been leaking for several years and as a part of the repair plan the city wanted to use that shaft as a bypass. The shaft had filled with water some years before thus requiring divers to install a secondary bulkhead intended to isolate the dewatered shaft from the aqueduct’s primary tunnel.”

Using techniques similar to deep-sea divers in the open ocean, the company’s divers plunged 685 feet down the water-filled access shaft to install a 23,000-pound stainless steel bulkhead.
“We recently completed another job in Arizona for the Salt River Project [SRP],” notes Langen. “We dove in about 200 feet of water to grout, bolt and install new horizontal and vertical vanes designed to minimize turbulence in the water as it flows through the intake.”

No matter the job, Grennan says there’s always a new set of interesting challenges, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Most engineering firms are used to being able to see the work that needs to be done, but we have to figure things out as we go at really deep depths with specialized tooling,” he explains. “The challenges are unlike any other line of work.”

The company predicts growth in all lines of business, but particularly in marine construction and the growing environmental services business as customers seek out contractors capable of everything under one roof. “Ten years ago, we would have simply provided the diving services on a project,” he continues. “Now we are looked to be the prime contractor, organizing and managing multiple construction disciplines beyond our diving.”

Challenges or not, it’s all in a day’s work for the team, as Global Diving & Salvage Inc. continues to lead a multibillion-dollar marine construction industry.

Published on: February 13, 2014

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