Leading up to the seismic events of 2020 we ran a seminar in Sep 2019 on “Opportunities and Challenges to Improve the Economics of Cable, Flexible and Umbilical Lay” hosted by Khalifa University. Then focusing on the specific challenges in the Middle East we used ADIPEC in November 2019 to run Subsea X-Talks showcasing technology from UTEC, Prysmian, Drass, Vallourec, NOV and Ashtead. ADNOC and ADIPEC organisers DMG have created a specific focus on the Offshore, Marine and Commercial Dive Zone in Hall 15 which gave SUT the opportunity to run a stand and host the X-Talks event. Our next and as it turned out last event in March 2020 on Trenching & Excavation was the most successful so far in terms of attendance and subject matter interest, and then lockdown.
We’ve always known the Middle East to be a challenging domain for SUT type activity, not least of which being some incorrect perspectives on the region as a subsea domain and highly transient nature of the expatriate engineering community. We lose the summer every year as many find a way to escape the heat, and there are two major religious holidays either side. The pandemic has not helped. Never-the-less, the momentum has been building and we now have over a thousand subsea professionals with an interest in what we are doing.
The committee is drawn from some of the major players in the industry who have all been affected by the pandemic. About a third of the committee either changed jobs or moved out of the region which highlights the regional challenges we face. We continue to be well represented by TechnipFMC, Boskalis, DCN BV, Ashtead, Mermaid, Lloyd Warwick, NPCC, Kenz-Figee, Connector Subsea, Dolphin Energy, Flowline Specialists, Pelagian, Prysmian, Baker Hughes, McDermott, Gulf Marine, Oceaneering, Unique, Subsea 7, Pipeshield and the Tekmar Group. These companies represent a broad spectrum across the supply chain who are all focused on Aramco, ADNOC and QG (QatarGas) offshore activity in Saudi, UAE and Qatar.
We had a full program of events mapped out for 2020 under our traditional “face-to-face” model, so lost a fantastic opportunity to run an EPRS (Emergency Pipeline Repair Systems) event hosted by ADNOC in April 2020. We had all hoped things would return to normal way before ADIPEC but the world’s largest oil and gas show will be run virtually this year. Like all SUT committees with limited resources, we have now accepted that we need to evolve to stay relevant and have turned our minds toward an online program of events. These are designed to be short and sharp lunch-time events focused on the dynamics of the local market and subsea challenges in the region.
We have signed a collaborative agreement with Oceanology International to support their first event in September 2021 and with that hope to expand our horizons from offshore energy toward aquaculture, seabed resources, robotics and potentially defense.
Given the COVID-19 hiatus, it is fair to say we continue to be at an early stage of our development, but we mark our second anniversary with a potential virtual presence at ADIPEC in 2020. Our decision to delay establishment of a local entity proved to be the right one given the interruption of our program and ability to generate revenue. We have however developed the outline for a Middle East “Subsea Awareness Course” which is on hold until the effects of the double whammy of COVID-19 and low oil prices plays its way through the local industry.