Committed to Its Mission

Global Diving & Salvage
Written by Claire Suttles

Global Diving & Salvage delivers marine construction and infrastructure support services within the United States, and casualty response around the world.
Experts at working within a dynamic marine environment, the Seattle based team specializes in everything from commercial diving, marine construction, and unmanned subsea technologies to casualty and emergency response, offshore services, and non destructive testing training and consulting services. “The breadth of our services has been a direct result of our clients asking us to provide value added services,” shares CEO and President Devon Grennan.

This breadth of services sets the company apart; Global Diving & Salvage is one of the only full-service marine contractors able to provide project management, in-house engineering, marine and upland environmental services, and the full spectrum of commercial diving services.

Over its 35 years in business the company has risen to become a market leader, and Mr. Grennen credits the team’s enthusiasm, skill and willingness to take on the toughest challenge. “Our mission statement sums up why Global is a premier marine service company: Stimulate professional pride and passion in our craft and provide our clients and partners with safe and effective solutions to complex problems even under the most difficult of conditions.”

Global has executed a long list of challenging projects over the last three decades. One of the most remote took place on Palmyra Atoll, a stunning marine wilderness area. “Palmyra Atoll encompasses some of the last remaining near-pristine reef environment on earth, boasting an intact marine predator-dominated ecosystem where species’ richness and diversity abound, with over 176 species of hard coral and 418 species of reef fish,” Mr. Grennan reports.

But this pristine environment was facing a serious threat when Global stepped in three years ago. The corroding metal from wrecked fishing vessels was fueling the growth of an invasive algae and a marine organism that smothers coral. To save the coral reef, the US Fish & Wildlife Service engaged Global to remove the wrecked vessels.

The company partnered with Curtin Maritime to overcome the challenge of operating within an extremely remote and sensitive area. “Several factors were fundamental in the planning process: the safety of personnel and equipment, followed closely by mitigating the potential of further damage to the extremely delicate living coral and reef structure,” Mr. Grennan recalls.

A crew of 12 worked for 79 days – and spent 880 hours underwater – to cut, rig, and remove over 970,000 pounds of steel and debris, as well as 605 gallons of hydrocarbons. After “surgically removing” this massive amount of debris, Global hauled it back to Southern California and recycled it. “This project was a big success. It is the type of project that really fits our niche. It was a little bit different than what most people think about when they think about casualty response operations. It took a little bit more innovation and ingenuity.”

The oil tanker S.S. Montebello sank on December 23, 1941 when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. The ship has rested off the coast of Southern California ever since. By 2012 the US Coast Guard had grown concerned that the tanker could potentially leak oil in the future and asked Global to determine if the decaying ship posed any danger to the California coast.

The S.S. Montebello lay beneath 900 feet of water, too deep to make human exploration feasible. Instead, the team utilized a variety of leading edge tools including a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) and Tracerco’s neutron backscatter tool, a non-invasive sensing device that could determine whether or not the tanker was still full of oil. “We used out of the box thinking to try to mitigate any potential pollution that would have a severe economic impact,” explains Mr. Grennan. Fortunately, the team found that there was not a significant amount of oil left inside the tanker, so the surrounding waters were not at risk.

In a similar project, Global’s ROV did find a hazardous oil leak in a sunken vessel. The Princess Kathleen sank off the coast of Juneau, Alaska, in 1952. “Everyone was rescued but the boat was never recovered. It sat there for over 50 years and began to develop small leaks because of the oxidation, the rusting that occurs.” In 2010, the Coast Guard observed some small oil plumes near the wreck and called in Global to investigate.

After the team confirmed that the Princess Kathleen was indeed the source of the oil plumes, they created a 3D computer model so that engineers could develop a pumping plan. When the plan was put into action, the team recovered more than 130,000 gallons of fuel oil using hot water circulation through the tanks and an additional 218,000 gallons of oil and contaminated water using divers. “We worked with the Coast Guard and other partners and removed the oil in situ, which means the vessel remained where it was. We basically tapped into the fuel tanks and the overhangs of the vessel where the oil had migrated over the course of 50 years and removed the oil, pumped it up to the surface, separated it from the salt water, and then properly disposed of the oil. Another successful mitigation project.”

On March 11, 2011 an 8.9 magnitude earthquake ripped through Japan, releasing a tsunami that made its way across the Pacific Ocean to Crescent City, California. “The wave swamped around 45 vessels and took out most of the infrastructure at the marina,” Mr. Grennan recalls. “Because there was so much damage, the Coast Guard took control of the site. They hired Global to manage the entire recovery effort.” Pollution was an immediate concern, and the team worked quickly to contain leaked fuel and prevent any more fuel and oil from leaking into the water. In total, the team removed 10 sunken vessels from the harbor and took care of 400 gallons of fuel and oily waste.

The industry
Global complies with several associations and governing bodies including the Association of Diving Contractors International, American Salvage Association, Associated General Contractors, International Salvage Union, and Spill Control Association of America (SCAA). As Vice President of SCAA, Mr. Grennan enjoys insight into the industry as a whole, in addition to the insight he gains as CEO and President of Global. The greatest challenge he has observed at both the company and industry level is a shortage of young workers.

While the work is certainly in sync with Millennials’ desire to protect the environment, the demands of the job can be a tough sell. “The challenge that we have is that our work [requires] a very demanding time commitment,” Mr. Grennan explains. “All of us are used to being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our industry is used to working over holidays and having to leave family commitments unfulfilled, missing birthdays and Halloween and Thanksgiving because we have to respond to an incident.”

For example, “We had a guy who was getting married in two weeks. He was at his bachelor party in New Orleans and there happened to be a casualty event in the Gulf of Mexico and he was gracious enough to head to the incident site and perform a quick evaluation. He ended up staying for a week, putting his personal schedule aside for awhile.” The unpredictable nature of the job is difficult to get around, but the industry is working hard to make the field more attractive to young people. “We are trying to find an appropriate work life balance while still meeting our industry’s core need of 24/7 availability.”

In addition, the industry is undergoing a substantial transition, which poses another long-term challenge. “The response community is going through a few significant changes in my view: the term energy renaissance is entering the public’s lexicon, and our industry is having to adjust with the changing energy sources and subsequent new operators and clients who are not as familiar with the existing response infrastructure that is in place,” Mr. Grennan explains. “We are seeing new response challenges with these new sources of oil and gas. Potential arctic development, crude by rail, and fracking are all adding complexity to our industry’s posture.”

Sensitive to industry and client needs, Global is moving toward a more complete solution. “We intend to focus more on providing turnkey construction services, from project management and engineering to full topside construction operations with owned assets, personnel and skill sets,” Mr. Grennan reports. “Often our best work is considered critical milestones for larger, longer duration construction projects, and we see a tremendous opportunity to leverage our subsea construction experience and résumé into taking control of our opportunities as a prime contractor. We also are fortunate to have great construction partners where we have performed specialty, niche projects together, and we will continue to be competitive in the marine construction sector in a collaborative approach.”



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