Page last updated at 09:32 GMT, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 10:32 UK

Oil price creating new dive jobs

Divers and ROV
Divers and a remotely operated vehicle at the Fort William centre

The soaring price of oil has encouraged a significant number of construction workers to re-train as offshore divers, according to industry experts.

The North Sea boom coincides with a downturn in the building trade.

The Underwater Centre, in Fort William, is one dive training base reporting a rise in numbers of potential new recruits to the trade.

It expects up to 400 new divers to qualify this year. Trainees include a construction worker from the US.

Senior instructor Ali Macleod said the skills he learned as a builder on dry land were suited to construction underwater.

He said: "There has never been a better time for getting offshore and the opportunities that are around just now are phenomenal.

"If get into the North Sea, for example, the current pay rate for an air diver is about 450 a day.

"When we dive deeper and live in decompression chambers and saturation, the pay rate goes up to 1,040."

Construction firm Barratt - a major player in the Scottish housing market - has reported the number of new homes it built and sold in 2007 was down by 14%
Oil and Gas UK estimate there are 4 billion barrels of untapped oil reserves off the Northern Isles
Experts told a BBC Scotland investigation they believed between 25 and 30 billion barrels could still be recovered over the next 40 years.

However, Mr Macleod said working in those conditions was hard.

Demand for oil is at an all-time high, fuelled by higher prices at petrol pumps in the UK the continued economic expansion of the economies of China and India.

But earlier this month, the UK offshore industry admitted it faced a major challenge reaching the government target of recovering 25 billion barrels of North Sea reserves.

A recent report by Oil and Gas UK, which represents major offshore firms, said only about 10 billion barrels could be recovered at current levels of investment.

The organisation has called for government tax incentives for companies willing to explore and develop new oil fields.

The industry said further investment was needed in exploration west of Shetland.

Meanwhile, concerns that thousands of jobs could be lost in Scotland's construction industry due to the recent downturn in the housing market have also been raised.

Several of the UK's biggest builders said a growing number of new-build houses were failing to sell - and jobs would have to go as a result.

Concern over Scots building jobs
10 Jul 08 |  Scotland
Oil reserves goal 'a challenge'
08 Jul 08 |  North East/N Isles
Oil reserves 'will last decades'
04 Jun 08 |  Scotland

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