UESI was profiled in an article detailing our global reach and unique field of work!
Bradshaw, Kit. “Profile: Fort Pierce underwater engineering firm has global reach.” TCPalm (part of the USA Today network) [Treasure Coast, FL] 14 November 2016 < www.tcpalm.com/story/specialty-publications/progress-and-innovation/2016/11/14/profile-fort-pierce-underwater-engineering-firm-has-global-reach/92523612/ >
Profile: Fort Pierce underwater engineering firm has global reach
Kit Bradshaw, For Progress & Innovation Published 6:01 a.m. ET Nov. 14, 2016
Underwater Engineering Services Inc. (UESI) of Fort Pierce has carved out a niche in a very specialized industry.
The company has a worldwide reputation as a specialty engineering, commercial diving and civil marine contractor, operating in Florida, throughout the U.S. and in foreign countries such as Korea and Japan.
Two elements help make UESI unique.
First, many of its operations occur above, on or under water, and its commercial divers have specialized training in such areas as underwater welding. Secondly, the company is well-respected as the go-to contractor for nuclear power plant work.
According to Charles Vallance, UESI’s president and branch manager, the company began as S.G. Pinney and Associates, with its founder Steve Pinney specializing in coatings in nuclear plants. When Pinney hired Charlie Stuart, who had a diving background, the way the company operated in the nuclear plants changed.
“Instead of draining the various tanks at a nuclear facility to repair things (that were) underwater, Stuart’s background in diving allowed the company to repair things underwater,” Vallance said. “This is an advantage because the water in these tanks contains radiologically contaminated particles. Water is a great shield so, when the divers go to work in the tanks, they receive less radioactive exposure.”
One of the nuclear plants that the company has worked on is the one in St. Lucie County.
Vallance said there are specific qualifications for UESI to work in nuclear plants. “There are all kinds of certifications involved in working in nuclear plants and that sets us apart,” Vallance said. “Our two biggest international markets are Korea and Japan, where we do underwater inspections. And our ability to do underwater welding is an important skill, especially in nuclear plants. We are only one of two diving companies that are allowed to work under our own quality assurance program in a nuclear plant, once the plant approves our program and our people.”
The company has other areas of expertise, and Vallance said it is working to expand its reach.
In addition to working at nuclear power plants, the company also does work at fossil and hydroelectric plants.
UESI provides engineering and consulting services and can repair and maintain facilities whether the problem is with wood, steel or concrete structures. “We can do boardwalks in wetland areas, do small concrete construction and we do some design-build as well,” Vallance said. “We can also do work for big construction companies that have jobs on or near the water, so there is a diving component to the work.”
The company also provides testing services, laboratory services and training to the nuclear industry.
One of the growth areas, according to Vallance, is in restoration and repair on marine structures, water control structures, wastewater treatment facilities, and reef restoration. It presents a challenge, he said, since being established in one industry doesn’t necessarily translate to another industry.
“You do well in one market, such as the nuclear industry but, if you are working with water and sewer plants, it is a different industry with different people. So you have to sell yourself to this market,” Vallance said.
“Even in the nuclear area we would like to expand our capabilities,” Vallance said. “On the inspection side, our inspection credentials allow us to do a visual inspection and some ultrasonic testing. We’re working to build the ultrasonic testing.”
The 50 employees of Underwater Engineering Services have many roles. Some are commercial divers, which Vallance said is much different than being a recreational diver.
“People who enjoy recreational diving find out that commercial diving isn’t as much fun, so there is an attrition rate in the company,” Vallance said. For the most part, he added, his employees may already have construction training and want to learn how to work as a commercial diver. The engineers in the company often take the commercial diving training to add to their skills.
“We have some seasonal workers and long-term employees,” Vallance said. “Some of our people are in this business for the long haul and have been with us for 20 or 30 years.”