Comment: Uncharted waters04 March 2020

The headline figure from the recently released Subsea UK Business Activity Review for the fiscal year 2018/19 was that the UK underwater engineering industry is set to recruit nearly 9,000 people in the next three years, suggesting employment could rise to over 54,000 by 2022. Respondents were also asked to provide the sectors in which they had the most interest in for the future. Oil and gas remained the most of interest in the short-to-medium term, but interest in renewables, particularly offshore wind, had increased.

Both are welcome findings, but the latter is of particular importance, especially in terms of energy transition and net-zero. And, what is even more exciting, are the opportunities that lay ahead in terms of the ‘Blue Economy’, an emerging concept defined by the World Bank as ‘sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem’.

The UK underwater engineering sector has the expertise, technologies and heritage to capitalise on such a concept. An increased interest in offshore wind is just the start. There are many other areas where this sector could have major influence and drive change, including wave and tidal power, water transport, hydrogen, port activities, and carbon capture.

As the report concludes: “Our oil and gas heritage serves us well as we move into unchartered waters where further exploration of emerging markets requires alternative action and lateral thinking. With a new narrative and new ways of applying our energy expertise, we will capitalise on the rich resources from our oceans. Our undoubted ingenuity will be a key enabler of the Blue Economy.”

Indeed, I’m sure it will, and I look forward to watching how the UK underwater engineering industry develops over the next few decades and the Blue Economy concept comes to fruition.

Adam Offord

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