Britain’s offshore business fails to sell itself to world

Britain’s offshore contractors and supply companies are failing to export their expertise, a conference in London was told on Tuesday. Figures compiled by the Crine Network, the organisation which was set up to cut North Sea costs, showed that while UK-based companies now account for 70-80% of North Sea orders, their share of the global […]

Britain’s offshore contractors and supply companies are failing to export their expertise, a conference in London was told on Tuesday.

Figures compiled by the Crine Network, the organisation which was set up to cut North Sea costs, showed that while UK-based companies now account for 70-80% of North Sea orders, their share of the global market for offshore services in 1997 was just 2%.

While this figure was an improvement on the 1% achieved in 1996, it still falls far short of the 5% average share of world markets secured by the rest of British industry. In 1997, there were a few large contracts – such as Brown & Root’s $300m Epic deal in Denmark – which are unlikely to be repeated this year.

Francis Gugen, managing director of Amerada Hess and chairman of the Crine Network, said far too many UK companies – particularly small ones – were still not involved in the international arena and far more effort would be needed to achieve the Crine Network’s target of a 5% share within five years.

Minister for small firms at the Department of Trade and Industry Barbara Roche told the conference that this failure in overseas markets ‘had serious implications for the future prosperity and success of the industry’.

Roche said her department was trying to identify reasons for this failure. Earlier research had indicated that 60-70% of UK firms invited to bid for foreign contracts declined, whereas the figure for US companies was 35-40%.

‘We want to find out why companies don’t respond,’ Roche said.