Aberdeen Goes Global

April 9th, 2014 - Since the first oil flowed in the North Sea over 40 years ago, Aberdeen in the northeast of Scotland has transformed into a global hub for the oil industry, rivalling other centres such as Houston, in the U.S., Singapore and Dubai.

“The accumulated expertise in Aberdeen, from suppliers of undersea equipment to the management of oil platforms, has made the city a magnet for producers,” says Alexis Fere, general manager for SDV in Aberdeen. “The city is building and exporting its oil and gas expertise.”

Fere cites new office and warehouse developments in Portlethen, south of the city, and at Dyce close to Aberdeen’s International Airport, as proof of the city’s dynamism. In total, Aberdeen City Council granted planning consent for 81,146 metres of office space in 2013, compared to 11,520 square meters in the previous year, according to the Council.

Companies including American oil giant Chevron and General Electric’s GE Oil & Gas division are creating centres of expertise for subsea engineering in Aberdeen, working on projects from Africa to Australia.

This had led to the creation of sophisticated supply chains. SDV, for example, opened an office in Aberdeen ten years ago, anticipating the shift from an oil producer to a hub for energy expertise, says Philippe Lejeune, SDV’s head of industrial projects for western Europe and regional oil and gas director. “At the time, local independent freight forwarders dominated the Aberdeen market while now it is mostly global players,” Lejeune adds.

One SDV client, U.K.-based oil services company Expro, for example, uses Aberdeen as a hub to transport goods including well testing and subsea equipment to over 40 destinations in the major hydrocarbon producing areas of the world.

“We need to be skilled at coordinating shipments so that the equipment is packed and labelled and dispatched to different destinations under tight deadlines,” says Fere.

In a further sign of the growth of the logistics industry, Aberdeen Harbour handled five million tonnes of cargo in 2012, an increase of almost eight percent compared to the previous year. The cargo had a total estimated value of over £1.5 billion with the majority coming from the oil industry.

Thanks to its thriving oil and gas businesses, Aberdeen enjoys a low two percent unemployment. This is despite oil production in the north sea falling by nine percent in 2013, more proof of the rise of exportable energy expertise. It has been estimated that the number of jobs created by the energy industry in and around Aberdeen is as high as half a million.

With business booming in the energy sector, Fere is unconcerned about the outcome of the referendum on Scottish independence in September. “We don’t see any major impact on our business for the moment,” he says.

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