Written by Elaine Maslin
Signs of improvement in the subsea industry are finally here. The bottom has been hit and is now in the past. But, there are still strong head currents, low margins – if any, in some cases – and market uncertainty, on a global level.
Owe Hagesæther, chief executive at GCE Ocean Technology, co-host of the 25th Underwater Technology Conference (UTC), says that now is the time for companies to look closely at their businesses and what other “legs” in other subsea sectors they could stand on, so that they’re sustainable, in the long term, both locally and in the global market place.
These are among the key top key topics business leaders will discuss at this year’s conference, being held June 11-13, in Bergen.
“This year has been better for most companies, contracts have been signed, but the prices and the competition have increased, so it’s hard to make good business,” says Hagesæther. “It’s a big issue, energy companies need to allow the supply chain to have profitable contracts or there will be problems; inability to fulfil contracts, quality issues.
“On the other side, contractors, suppliers need to prepare themselves for hard competition and try to establish new related markets for themselves, such as in offshore wind, so that they have more than one leg to stand on.”
Some companies have already been doing this; Imenco, which supplies camera technology, has been working in fish farming; sensor and instrumentation technology company Aanderaa is working in offshore wind, fish farms, bridges and dams; Seaproof has forged a market in offshore wind cable protection; cables specialist Fosstech has been producing ultrabright LED lighting for roads and bridges; and the list could go on. Larger firms, including Aker Solutions, have also been moving into offshore wind.
New business models are also being successfully tested. CCB Subsea has established a rental model, offering services, not equipment, notes Hagesæther. “The system integrators are also opening up and are much more willing to work with small innovative suppliers,” adds Hagesæther. Aker Solutions recently announced a new joint venture company, FASTSubsea, with FSubsea, for example. “There’s also a trend towards buying a result – performance instead of hardware,” such as Framo’s service agreement with Aker BP for seawater lift pump operations.
If companies can maintain their edge through new models and even markets, their real strength – and UTC’s core – subsea technology will have future markets. Indeed, while the Norwegian Continental Shelf is on most of their doorsteps, there are huge possibilities ahead in growing but also challenging markets like Brazil, says Hagesæther. “There are new operators in Brazil, in addition to Petrobras, the market is opening up and it’s being to be an exciting opportunity for the Norwegian supply chain,” he says.
These topics will all be discussed at this year’s UTC conference. Prominent speakers from companies including BP, Shell and Equinor, alongside Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, will be among those offering their perspectives, alongside the event’s annual extensive parallel technical sessions, exhibition, dinner and networking opportunities.
UTC 2019 is June 11-13. The event is co-hosted by the Underwater Technology Foundation (UTF) and GCE Ocean Technology, supported by the City of Bergen, with organising partners the Society of Petroleum Engineering (SPE) and the Society of Underwater technology (SUT). To find out more about this year’s program, visit https://www.utc.no/program