More than half of UK sub-sea firms expect to increase exports this year

UES Engineers complete the refurbishment of client’s marine crane.
UES Engineers complete the refurbishment of client’s marine crane.

British subsea companies expect to increase overseas sales activity in the next 12 months, according to a survey conducted by the Aberdeen-based industry body, Subsea UK.

Of 300 member companies surveyed, 27% are predicting increasing exports by 50% or more in 2017.

More than half (56%) expect overseas sales to increase between 1% and 49% while only 17%  do not expect any increase in export revenues.

A third of companies surveyed do not yet know what effect Brexit will have on their export plans, with 49% believing that it will have no impact on their plans.

By comparison, 32% expect domestic revenues to remain static in 2017 while 22% are anticipating a decline in domestic sales. Of those who expect domestic revenues to increase, the majority are forecasting between 10% and 30% additional revenues from the UK Continental Shelf.

Export sales currently account for over half or more of the annual turnover of 32% of respondents with 55% seeing less than half of their turnover attributed to exports and only 13% with no export revenues.

The USA is the largest export market for UK subsea companies, followed by West Africa, then South-east Asia, Australia and South America.

The majority of export sales are related to oil and gas however, 58% of respondents are also exporting to the renewables industry (33% in offshore wind and 19% in tidal). A quarter of respondents export to the defence sector, 22% to subsea mining and 18% to ocean science.

A Subsea UK spokesman said: “The subsea industry remains a British export success story.

“These findings underline the global demand for UK subsea engineering, technology and services and the fact that our enterprising companies are increasing their export efforts in a bid to reduce the reliance on the mature North Sea.

“It is no surprise that the majority of growth will come from diversification, both into other sectors and other geographies.

“So-called “small pools” of hydrocarbons in the North Sea will also be a significant prize that will help achieve MER (Maximising Economic Recovery) of  UK oil and gas reserves,

“The technologies, methodologies and experience gained in unlocking these pools will be highly exportable.”

When asked what support they receive from government and economic development agencies, 49% of respondents answered none while 32% receive support, ranging from market intelligence and advice to trade missions, grants and support.

More than a third made positive comments about the support they receive from Subsea UK but would like to see increased support from these agencies.

Meanwhile, newly-merged Aberdeenshire-based Underwater Engineering Services (UES) and Houston headquartered Seanic Oceans Systems has secured its first contract in Tunisia, a region which neither firm had previously operated in.

 As part of the merger between their parent companies ATR Group and Centurion Group last year, the newly formed business of UES Seanic will support Oceana Subsea on the decommissioning project.

Personnel in the Aberdeen office will manage the scope of work which includes the supply of a ROV launch and recovery crane, ROV operable hydraulic breakers, as well as ROV tooling manifolds, hydraulic power unit and jetting / dredging equipment

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