More Than 2,000 Commercial Divers Needed to Meet Demands for Offshore Wind Sector

Leading analysts warn of high demand for subsea personnel.

More than 2,200 commercial divers will be needed to help build and develop Europe’s offshore wind sector as it rapidly expands over the next six years, according to leading industry analysts.

A new report commissioned by subsea training provider The Underwater Centre in Fort William has studied the number of divers who will be needed to meet the renewable energy targets which have been set by governments across Europe.

The study, which was carried out by Douglas Westwood, focuses on the installation and maintenance phases of offshore wind farm development over the next six years.

It concludes that 1,700 divers will be needed during the installation phase where there is a potential for 17.7GW to come online. 2013 will see a peak in demand with 500 divers required, mainly in the UK and Germany.

With the potential of 3,800 turbines coming online in Europe by 2016, an additional 500 divers would be required during the operations and maintenance phase.

The report also concludes that:

  • During the operational phase, 1.3 divers will be needed for every 10 turbines
  • From 2010-2016, the majority of divers required for the installation phase will be in water depths from 20-39m
  • It is projected that turbines in depths of more than 40m will become more frequent, leading to an increased need for divers
  • Before 2008, most turbines were installed in depths between 10-19m. Now projects are moving further offshore, with 90% of new developments in depths greater than 20m


Steve Ham, General Manager of The Underwater Center, said the new report underlines the integral role that commercial divers will play in the offshore wind farm sector.

“We have been speaking for some time about how there will be an increased need for commercial divers to meet the demands of the nascent renewables sector, specifically the high number of wind farms that have been planned,” he said.

“This report from Douglas Westwood reinforces our message that there is a danger that demand will outstrip availability of trained subsea personnel which, in turn, could affect the progression of some of the wind farm projects.

“Training our students in a realistic and industry relevant environment is key to our overall approach as this means, once they complete their course and leave The Underwater Center, they are able to hit the ground running when they get employment in the renewables sector.”

The findings of the report are no surprise to leading industry representatives who say that the renewables industry is in danger of suffering from a raft of skills shortages.

Subsea UK chief executive Alistair Birnie said: “There is a growing and urgent need for skills right across the energy industry which this report clearly underlines. We cannot rely on our existing pool of resources to support the massive growth rate and the only way we will succeed is if we invest in the right skills at the right time. This report highlights divers as being one of the pressure areas which also includes skills such as engineers and technicians.

“Attracting new blood into the industry, combined with the energy industry working together to consolidate existing resources, is essential if we are to address the demand for skills now and in the future.”

Eric Doyle Alternative Energy Manager at energy consultancy Xodus Group said: “It is important that a resourcing assessment is made across the Offshore Wind supply chain and that an action plan is put in place to service the growing sector and to help minimize delays to wind farm projects. The industry is in danger of suffering from skills shortages in many disciplines and it is crucial that these risks are not underestimated and that action is taken now to transfer appropriate skills, knowledge and experience from the oil and gas industry.”

The Underwater Center is the only training center in the world that offers the full range of Health and Safety Executive (HSE) commercial diving qualifications in air and mixed gas diver training, from HSE SCUBA to HSE Closed Bell diving.

Based at the head of Loch Linnhe, the Center offers a unique sheltered, seawater site with a large private pier extending into the loch. The waters plunge to depths of 150 meters, which are ideal conditions for commercial diving and ROV training. There is also a large, purpose built, onshore diver training pool.

CASE STUDY

The decision to work in the emerging renewables industry was an easy one for 41-year-old commercial diver, Gavin Kennedy.

Since completing his diving course at The Underwater Center, he has had regular jobs and recently has been working on wind farm construction, off the Cumbrian coast.

Not only is there an increased amount of work in renewables projects, but the daily rates tend to be higher than for other civil diving contracts.

The flexibility of commercial diving is important to Gavin as he is currently studying to be an Officer of the Watch with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and is able to take on a range of different diving jobs in between course work and college.

“As a career, commercial diving is one which suits me very well. Every job is different and presents a range of challenges, both mental and physical,” he said.

“It is hugely appealing for someone like me who is not cut out for a desk job. The renewables sector is providing great opportunities for commercial divers and it’s good to find a niche for your skills.

“Training at The Underwater Center was a great launch-pad for my career in diving. One of the major benefits of doing courses there is that the facility is so well respected so that those working in the industry know its reputation and trust that it will produce good divers.

“The natural facilities are excellent as we were diving in realistic conditions. I got my first job within a month of leaving the centre and have had plenty work since then.”