The Fight for Survival in Australia’s Offshore Survey Market

For the last 8 years, UTEC Survey Australia has been one of Atlas’ loyal clients based in the Asia-Pacific. In April 2016, UTEC announced management changes to further enhance the company’s client-focused approach. UTEC’s former Operations Manager Mick Elmslie recently took on the role of Business Development Manager. Mick spoke to Atlas about his current views on the market in Australia and his plans in expanding UTEC’s services in the industry.

Surveying the Outback

In 1998, Mick began his career as a land surveyor working on projects in the outback, “It was the prospect of travel that got me interested in the industry. In Australia you would mainly be working in the desert or out in the bush and I thought the offshore life would be a good way to see more of the world.” Over the years, Mick has been given the opportunity to work at some of the world’s most remote locations, the most remote being Antarctica where he took part in a biodiversity study.

In 2010, Mick joined UTEC Survey Australia as Project Manager. UTEC is a part of the Acteon group, an organisation of market leaders that are committed to working together to define, shape and lead subsea services and provide the best survey solutions to their clients. For nearly a decade, UTEC has been a key client of Atlas in the APAC region and has worked on a number of innovating projects with us over the years. “Last year we worked with Atlas on the largest subsea pipeline installation in the southern hemisphere. The pipeline starts in Darwin and goes across the Timor Sea to a new gas field; it’s approximately 900 km long and was installed by two large construction/pipelay barges. We used Atlas’ LBL specialists to assist with this operation.”

Availability, Reliability and Locality

Since last year, Atlas has built a strong presence in Western Australia. With our main office now established in Perth, Mick discusses the benefits of using a local agency with a global support network. “I have been dealing with Atlas for almost a decade. I use Atlas for a number of reasons; the first is the locality of candidates. In Australia it’s a lot harder for personnel to get visas to work in this country, so it’s ideal that the team in Perth can find local content before our deadline. It’s great having Ian Marshall (Atlas’ Business Manager) in Perth; he’s someone you can always call and go for a coffee with to chat about candidates and general industry information. Also, I know that if I have any issues with invoicing or terms and conditions the operations team will get this sorted out quickly and efficiently.”

In addition to our survey teams in the APAC, Mick has also worked with Atlas’ specialist Offshore Survey & Construction office based in Newquay, UK. “Sometimes when the Atlas teams in Perth or Singapore are unavailable, it’s good to know that you can call the team in the UK and they can help you out."

UTEC’s Goal to Survive

For the past few months, Mick has taken on the role of Business Development Manager for UTEC, with his breadth of industry experience, Mick aims to bring UTEC to the forefront of the competitive market. “Since moving into my new role in Business Development I think the goal really is firstly to help see the company through the challenging times we all face in the oil and gas sector. Part of that requires that we diversify the company to a certain degree. UTEC’s core business is offshore construction, so it’s trying to diversify beyond that market now and look at more geophysical work, some land based operations and laser scanning.

At the moment the market in Australia is pretty quiet with a lot of projects being postponed to 2018-19 or even further. However, we are lucky that we’ve got a major construction contract that has us busy this year and well into 2017.”

With the offshore industry expanding into the renewables market, we asked Mick whether UTEC had any plans to work in wind energy. “In regards to offshore wind, we have already been working on a number of projects in Europe, but in Australia there are no plans for the wind energy market; there are more plans for tide and wave energy but that’s in the very early stages.”  

Providing the talent for our client’s ambition

“Just the fact that Atlas have been around for a long time, reassures me of their depth of professionals. I had used other agencies before and they just use the same people over and over again, so I quite like the fact that Atlas has a large pool of professionals that are available when you need them. I’m confident with Atlas because of their stability in the survey market with their UK, Singapore and Australia offices. The breadth of experience they can provide is second to none; providing candidates with secondary skills to their main discipline is vital to assure survival in the offshore survey market.”