A leading commercial diver training centre is to embark on a £5 million improvement and expansion programme to cement its position as a world-leading subsea training facility. The Underwater Centre in Fort William has been awarded £1.5 million by HIE.
The project will create 20 new jobs and safeguard the 53 already at the Centre, as well as increasing diver training capacity by around 100 per year.
Finlay Finlayson, of The Underwater Centre, said; "This redevelopment project will improve our existing facilities including the pier infrastructure, a new diver training barge and various other training amenities at the Centre. This will undoubtedly give us a great platform for future growth in Fort William. With a growing oil and gas industry and a new focus on marine renewables, improving the training for divers and ROV pilots is going to be fundamental for us to take real advantage of these opportunities. This is the largest investment we have ever undertaken and we are grateful for the support of HIE."
The Centre was purchased by current owner Finlay Finlayson in 2004 and has successfully established itself as a leading player in the commercial diver training market. In operation since the 1970s, its main focus has traditionally been on the oil and gas sector but with the growing importance of marine renewables, including offshore wind, the Centre's focus is evolving to reflect this in its training offer. As well as commercial diver training courses for both air and mixed gas diving, The Underwater Centre also undertakes Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) training and sea trials.
David Oxley, Head of Operations for HIE in Fort William, said: "The Underwater Centre in Fort William is a unique facility in the area and a world leader in subsea training. It already has a strong reputation for the quality of training it delivers and this expansion will allow the company to further position itself on the forefront of the world market."
Alex Paterson, HIE Chief Executive added; "The development of The Underwater Centre is vital if the Highlands and Islands are to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the marine renewable sector. This is a great example of a locally-based company showing the ambition to be world-leading."
The Underwater Centre is the only centre in world to offer a full range of diving and ROV training for both new entrants and for subsea personnel wanting to develop their skills further. It is also one of only three centres in the world to offer closed bell diver training.