Subsea training and trials centre, The Underwater Centre, located in the Scottish Highlands, has turned a corner after receiving industry support to secure its future.
Industry and public bodies including Oil & Gas UK, Subsea 7, TechnipFMC, Premier Oil and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) have collaborated to support The Underwater Centre and ensure its future success.
The company will now operate as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, which will be funded and supported by its members, comprising operators, service companies and industry.
Senior representatives of Subsea 7, TechnipFMC and Premier Oil will join the board of The Underwater Centre.
The restructure will ensure that the industry continues to have access to critical, world-leading underwater training and can undertake vital subsea equipment trials.
Oil & Gas UK, which supported the move, welcomed the collaboration effort supporting the continued delivery of specialist subsea training in the UK.
Commenting, Oil & Gas UK Chief Executive Deirdre Michie said: “I visited The Underwater Centre and I saw first-hand the value it adds to the UK’s world-leading subsea sector. As we continue to move out of the downturn and adapt to a changing future, it’s increasingly important that the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry works together to consolidate areas of strength. Oil & Gas UK is pleased to have worked with our peers to secure an outcome which maintains the breadth of expertise and institutional knowledge at this excellent facility.”
David McGhie, Managing Director of The Underwater Centre, welcomed the move, saying: “The centre is of crucial importance to the North Sea industry as one of only two centres in Europe which provides closed bell diver training – a skill set which is vital to the North Sea sector. We are delighted that the industry and Scottish Government have collaborated to ensure the future of the centre. This genuinely positive collaboration will help to increase the value we can offer our customers and the entire industry in the future.
“As a not-for-profit company, any surplus will be reinvested in improving quality and maintaining high standards and in new equipment and technology to support testing and trials, keeping us at the forefront globally.”
Phil Simons, Senior Vice President Projects & Operations, Subsea 7, added: “This is a win:win for the Centre and the industry. Subsea companies like ourselves rely on the Centre to provide the highest standards of training and test facilities which are vital to safe and effective underwater operations in the oil and gas and other high-risk industries. Being even more closely aligned with the leading subsea contractors under this new structure will ensure that the Centre can further tailor its offering to meeting current and future industry needs.”
Kevin Thomson, Vice President of TechnipFMC’s Marine Operations Services said: “I’m very pleased we’ve been able to join our peers in helping secure the Centre’s future. ‘Achieving Together’ is one of our company’s core values, and we are delighted to demonstrate this by playing our part in ensuring this key facility continues to provide high quality training for the subsea industry.”
Stuart Wheaton, Premier Oil, UK Business Unit Manager, said: “As a UK offshore operator, we are all too aware of just how important a Centre like this is for the long-term health of the UK’s subsea sector and in ensuring that the highest of standards are maintained. We are very pleased to be able to provide our direct support to the Centre during these challenging times alongside other like-minded partners. Going forward we encourage all UK operators and contractors, using or providing diving services, to support this UK centre of excellence.”
Susan Smith, Acting Area Manager, Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) said “The Underwater Centre is internationally recognised as a world-class training centre, and is a real asset to Lochaber. We are delighted to support this innovative collaboration which demonstrates the very high regard the industry has for The Underwater Centre and will strengthen the sustainability of the business. This move will safeguard more than 50 high value jobs in Fort William and provide a platform to underpin business growth in the years ahead.”
Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse also welcomed the news.
He said: “I am delighted that The Underwater Centre has, with industry support, repositioned itself to achieve a long term sustainable future. Scotland is fortunate to have world class skills, and the infrastructure in place to ensure its place as a world-leader in diver training and as a trials facility. This is a good news story for the oil and gas sector as it continues to move out of the downturn, and demonstrates what can also be achieved through collaboration by industry.
“With up to 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent estimated to remain in the North Sea, Scotland's oil and gas industry has a bright future for decades to come. Our Energy Strategy clearly outlines that we remain committed to maintaining domestic oil and gas exploration and production, and maximising economic recovery.”
The Underwater Centre is a purpose-built subsea training and trials facility and is based on the shore of Loch Linnhe, sheltered by the surrounding mountains. The Centre’s unique location allows it to provide year-round training and testing in an open-water environment, while still being centrally located in Fort William, the largest town in the Scottish Highlands.