“I worked as a First Women Underwater Welder in Middle East”

Samar Emara, Welding and piping Inspector at TechnipFMC, Egypt

 

What made you choose welding as a career, which is a highly male dominated segment?

I started my career in welding, when I heard about underwater welding. I was really curious to know how they weld underwater, what about the electricity under water, etc. I had a lot of questions. Thus, I decided to take the commercial diving course (welding and cutting underwater) but it was difficult because I’m woman and you know the traditions and the mentalities of people in Egypt. They refused me, but I did everything to convince the Arab Academy University to accept me, and so finally I was able to complete my course. After my course completion, there was another major challenge of finding a job.  But I did not give up, and managed to find a suitable job. With this, I worked as a first women underwater welder in Middle East. Besides the title of being the first female underwater welder in Middle East, not all companies accepted me. The reason being, I’m a woman and they don’t want to take the responsibility of a female working offshore in a male dominated segment.

But is still didn’t give up. I started with a new chapter in my life. I decided to work as Welding Inspector and QC Engineer on various oil and gas projects. It was just not easy to let people accept me, but yes I did it and I proved myself as NDT welding inspector finally.

Could you brief us on your professional journey so far?

Started in the year 2013, I worked as a commercial underwater diver (welding and cutting underwater) offshore job for 2 months onboard, and then  I worked as Underwater Inspector in PowerStation. After this, I did not find a job as underwater welder, so I decided to work  as a QC Engineer and Welding Inspector. I thus found a job in a new construction refinery project with Orascom company for 3 years. After this project, I started working with Technip Energies Company as NDT Welding Inspector for Mid or Refinery project. Since the past one year I’m working with them. It’s a great experience to work with the team.

It takes time to let people believe that you can do it. I thank my manager, my team leaders to trust me and always support me and give me more job as given to any other inspector. I will never forget what they have done for me to support me and give me this chance.

Could you quickly take us to your qualification background? What are your specializations?

I’m Mechanical Engineer, Graduated in 2012. I got my commercial diver course (welding and cutting underwater) in the end of 2012. Then I decided to take NDT level 2 and now preparing myself to take the exam of cswip 3.1.

Could you please share your experience on some of the mega project you worked upon?

MIDOR Refining Company – Alexandria – My Current Project

NDT/visual inspection, line-up and fit-ups of the flare derrick, Erection of the pipelines, hydrostatic testing, resolution of outstanding punched-items, issuance of inspection records. Erection of the Tie-in in general shutdown

Opera Project – Egypt New Capital in Cairo

Producing all shop drawings and Compliance of the running activities with design requirements. The responsibilities includes construction supervision (e.g. concrete works of manholes, inspection chambers, catch basin) and issuance of field completion reports.

Egypt Refining Company – Mostorod Egypt

Endorsement of project design documents and implementation of work procedures and detailed fabrication drawings. Activities includes NDT/visual inspection, line-up and fit-ups, preparation of test packages, pre-commissioning and hydrostatic testing, resolution of outstanding punched-items, issuance of inspection records.

Subsea Visual / ROV Inspection Services in Zeit Bay, Red Sea, Offshore Egypt

Subsea general & close visual inspection of SEAPRO client platforms and pipelines (55 km pipelines inspection).

What are the main duties of welding and piping inspector?

Endorsement of project design documents and implementation of work procedures and detailed fabrication drawings. Activities include NDT/visual inspection, PT, MT, RT, line-up and fit-ups, preparation of test packages, resolution of outstanding punched-items, issuance of inspection records, dimension check of the pipeline. Ensure all welding and piping inspections according to the specifications of the project

What type of codes and standards are followed?

ASME 31.1
AWS D1.1
ASME 16.1
ASME II
ASME IX

Tell us about the most challenging inspection project that you have been involved with during the past year.

It was the underwater inspection offshore project. I had spent 2 month onboard with only men colleagues. It was crazy working in the rough sea with very high waves. Sometimes we have to work 24 hr without sleeping when the sea was quite.

When on site, what are the key points you follow during inspection of any project? Any suggestions.

Before starting the inspection of any project, it is highly important to read and understand very well the specification of the project and follow the QCP and inspection step if something not clear.

Please share some of the interesting anecdotes during your career?

I remember when I started my work for an offshore project as a Underwater Welder and Inspector, we used ROV that day to check the cathodic protection. The ROV started to dive till it reached 35m. Suddenly we noticed in the camera that the propeller is not in its place. We have 4 propeller for moving and one for diving and back to the surface again the buoyancy of the ROV was negative because we modified it.

We decided to back the ROV to the surface to fix it. The ROV started to go to the surface very smoothly, and when it arrived, we discovered that the ROV was back without the propeller which is responsible for returning it back. Till today, we don’t know how it is back to surface without the propeller and it had negative buoyancy anyway.

We took the ROV and fixed it and started to carry it with the crane, but suddenly the crane stopped working without reason. While we were trying to fix it, we heard alarm sound in the supply boat everywhere. Then everything stopped working without reasons. We spent more than 7 hr in the sea with very strong wind and very rough sea. The DP was not working, we couldn’t throw the anchor, as we have underwater pipe lines with petrol and the plate form was very near. We were afraid to crush. The captain tried to communicate with the nearest supply boat. After around 6 hr, the nearest supply boat came to rescue us.

It was truly an unforgettable experience.

What is your say on health and safety in welding? How do you consider the same when on job?

It’s important to follow the safety guidelines. If the welder is ignoring it, we will face different types from hazards like fire, electrical chocked, explosion, etc. There is no projects without accident, but many injuries can be avoided by having an understanding of what to do and what not to do, especially while working in a welding environment.
Before starting any project, every welders and QC welding inspector must take the time to ensure that they know how to execute the task safely above all else. They have to learn to follow the safety rules and use the PPE.

 What kind of challenges do you come across and how do you manage to cope up with the same?

I had a lot of challenges and I still have started from the first day that I decided to take the welding and cutting underwater course you know in the middle east we have completely different traditions especially I’m woman the Arab academy university refused me they said it’s men job and very hard work and no one will accept me and they don’t want to take the responsibility of woman in the course
I did everything until I convinced my captain to accept me and yes I did it I was the first woman working as welder and inspector underwater

Have you anytime faced gender discrimination on site, as the stream is male dominated?

With the welders, NO. The most important is to know how to communicate with them. When you have to be nice and when you have to be tough and how can you make them respect you and your decisions in the work.

But with other Welding Inspectors and Engineer, YES. I face a lot of gender discrimination. Most of them do everything to let me work in the office and try to convince me to leave the site even after I approved myself. Why? even I don’t have an answer for this question.

But my seniors are highly supportive. They have instructed them that – she is an Inspector exactly like you. So it doesn’t matter for us if she is a woman or man. She is doing her job like you.

 What checks and balances do you use to make sure that you don’t make mistakes?

Mistakes are normal. Anyone can make mistakes, but more important is to learn, go back to specifications and back to the leaders, and then you will not do it again.

 What new welding inspection specialty skills have you developed during the past year?

Everyday we learn something new. I’m working on my courses now and reading more in the code.

What are your future plans?

I hope to be CWE (Certified Welding Engineer). I love working as an Inspector, but  Inspection is only the first step to learn in the site, not only the technical work but also how to communicate with welders, how to take decision and how to solve problems. One day I will have to work in the office, so its very important for me to understand everything that is happening on site.

 Closing message, especially to the female.

I’m not saying we are equal with men, because god created us with different physical endurance but with the same brains. I believe each one of us does matter and has a unique role to play in life. Women can do anything. We can work on site, offshore or at office. At the same time, we can do all home cleaning, cooking and raising our children.

I’m sending message to the women all over the world –  Do whatever you believe in. Don’t listen to people who say that you are weak and you have to stay home. No… you can do the men’s work, but the most important is that you don’t forget to have family and children. Don’t let the work and your dreams steal your life. We have to make the balance at the end.