Underwater construction is industrial construction in an underwater environment. It is a part of the marine construction industry.[1] It can involve the use of a variety of building materials, mainly concrete and steel. There is often, but not necessarily, a significant component of commercial diving involved.[2][3] Some underwater work can be done by divers, but they are limited by depth and site conditions, and it is hazardous work, with expensive risk reduction and mitigation, and a limited range of suitable equipment. Remotely operated underwater vehicles are an alternative for some classes of work, but are also limited and expensive. When reasonably practicable, the bulk of the work is done out of the water, with underwater work restricted to installation, modification and repair, and inspection.

Scope and applications

Underwater construction is common in the civil engineering, coastal engineering, energy, and petroleum extraction industries.

Civil engineering

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Coastal engineering

Main article: Coastal engineering

Wave attack on Ilfracombe's sea walls during a storm.

Coastal engineering is a branch of civil engineering concerned with the specific demands posed by constructing at or near the coast, as well as the development of the coast itself.

Harbours, docks, breakwaters, jetties, piers, wharfs and similar structures are all immediately adjacent to, or project into coastal waters, and are supported in part by seabed.

Stormwater and sewer outfalls require pipelines to be laid underwater.

Dykes, levees, navigation channels, canals, locks.

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Energy infrasructure

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Offshore petroleum extraction

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Relevant technology

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See also: Marine construction § Materials

The most commonly used materials in marine construction are concrete and steel.[11]

Occupational safety and health issues

Underwater work by divers on construction sites is generally within the scope of Diving regulations.[12][13] The work may also come within the scope of other occupational heath and safety related regulations.



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See also


  1. ^ "Our industry". imca-int.com. International Marine Contractors Association. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  2. ^ Brown, J. Mariah (27 January 2011). "Underwater Construction". buildipedia.com. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  3. ^ "Civil underwater construction". www.ducmarinegroup.com. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  4. ^ "What is Civil Engineering". Institution of Civil Engineers. 2022-01-14. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  5. ^ "History and Heritage of Civil Engineering". ASCE. Archived from the original on 16 February 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2007.
  6. ^ a b Larn, Richard; Whistler, Rex (1993). "17 - Underwater concreting". Commercial Diving Manual (3rd ed.). Newton Abbott, UK: David and Charles. pp. 297–308. ISBN 0-7153-0100-4.
  7. ^ Gerwick, Ben C. Jr (2007). Construction of Marine and Offshore Structures (third ed.). Taylor and Francis. ISBN 978-0-8493-3052-0.
  8. ^ Bayliss, Mel; Short, David; Bax, Mary (17 March 1988). Underwater Inspection. Taylor and Francis. p. 229. ISBN 9780419135401.
  9. ^ "5.4 Underwater Inspection Procedures". SM&I Inspection Procedures Manual (PDF). SM&I. August 2018. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  10. ^ Kelly, Shawn W. (March 1999). Underwater Inspection Criteria. Port Hueneme, California: Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center.
  11. ^ Stannard, Liam (6 January 2021). "5 Amazing Underwater Structures: How Underwater Construction Works". www.bigrentz.com.
  12. ^ "Diving Regulations 2009". Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 – Regulations and Notices – Government Notice R41. Pretoria: Government Printer. Archived from the original on 2016-11-04. Retrieved 3 November 2016 – via Southern African Legal Information Institute.
  13. ^ Staff (1977). "The Diving at Work Regulations 1997". Statutory Instruments 1997 No. 2776 Health and Safety. Kew, Richmond, Surrey: Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO). Retrieved 6 November 2016.