The Underwater Centre commercial-diver training facility at Fort William in Scotland has ceased trading and is being placed into administration.
Some 200 commercial divers trained at the centre each year, but its profitability was closely linked with the North Sea oil and gas industry that employed most of them. It was said to be one of only two facilities in the world to offer closed-bell saturation diving courses.
With the sustained downturn in oil prices and increased use in the offshore industry of remotely operated vehicles, the facility had spent the past few years attempting to find solutions to its financial problems, in co-ordination with Scottish government agencies.
The centre had been restructured from a private into a not-for-profit company in an attempt to attract public and business investment, but the move proved unsuccessful.
It was however reported to have been about to embark on pioneering underwater pipeline-inspection trials with the Japanese company Kawasaki following a deal brokered recently by the Scottish government when its closure was announced.
Unless a financial solution can be found, the closure will mean the loss of 48 staff jobs, the centre being one of Fort William’s main employers. The Scottish Government has stated that it would expect to support the centre's staff if they are made redundant.
The company’s website now carries only the message that “The Underwater Centre has ceased trading and is not taking any future bookings whilst we are placed into administration”, and gives a number to call for anyone who has already booked a training course.