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Subsea UK Urges Marine Industry to “Look Outside Sector”

01 June 2009

The subsea industry has urged the marine renewables sector to use technology from other industries to manage risk.

Speaking at the All-Energy conference in Aberdeen on Wednesday, Alistair Birnie, chief executive of subsea trade body Subsea UK, said that the sector must "look outside" its own industry for solutions to engineering problems.

Mr Birnie told delegates that the tactic would reassure investors who have proved unwilling to put capital investment into the high-risk marine renewables industry.

Drawing on the experience of the subsea industry itself, Mr Birnie urged the industry to look at other sectors such as aviation and defence for technology that could also save billions of pounds in qualification investment.

He said: "You must be prepared to go outside your industry, and go outside your sector, and find those who are already doing very clever things, in the same sort of thing that you want to be in."

He continued: "Part of the strength of the subsea community is that it has not been afraid to reach out beyond our immediate sector and find partners who we are able and willing to work with. We have certainly found people who are willing and able to work with us. The aviation industry has been very good in that respect."

You're going to have to find similar partnerships to get the whole system ready for deployment and commercial application," Mr Birnie added.

Speaking in defence of the subsea industry's oil and gas clients, whom he said had been unjustly labelled as "highly conservative", he outlined some of the risks involved in deploying equipment at sea.

Mr Birnie highlighted that technology malfunction could potentially cost clients millions of pounds, and urged all sectors to mitigate "unacceptable" risks by devising a risk management strategy.

This, he said, will persuade clients to invest, adding: "You must be careful that when you qualify technology to make sure you think about what the implications are at the end when the technology is actually being used."

Mr Birnie went on to stress the importance of standards in risk management, saying: "Go and look at the standards because they tell you about managing the risk.

Subsea UK is a privately funded trade body with 200 hundred members, who work in the oil and oil and gas, renewables, and also in defence.

He concluded: "The subsea industry hasn't done things in isolation either, we've found synergies with other industries to find a vehicle or platform to test and get experience of the technology before taking it to a high risk environment."