Some 50 jobs are at risk after Fort William’s long-established Underwater Centre was forced into administration yesterday, despite recently undergoing a financial restructuring to become a not-for-profit company.
The centre, which is mainly used by the oil and gas industry and trains ROV pilots and commercial divers, is one of only a handful of saturation dive training facilities in the world (it is one of only two centres on the planet offering closed-bell training to divers). It got into financial difficulties last year after its subsidiary in Australia fell into liquidation, but in May 2018, it was thought to have fended off the threat of closure after securing a collaboration with a group of offshore firms.
Announcing the news yesterday, managing director David McGhie said: “We regret to confirm that the Underwater Centre has been forced to cease trading and will be placed into administration. It was heartbreaking informing our committed, loyal and professional staff, not to mention students who were due to begin a course this week.
“The government, industry and local management team have been working hard over the past year to try and find a sustainable solution for the centre, but unfortunately this has not been possible. We were still hopeful of a solution right up to the 11th hour, which is why some students have been adversely affected – we are truly sorry about this and will do what we can to support them.”
Scotland's Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse commented that the announcement was ‘a matter of great regret’ and that the Scottish government would look to provide support for affected employees. He confirmed: “The Scottish government and our agencies have worked closely with the management team in Fort William, and constituency members of both parliaments to support the centre, and in the course of doing so we have already provided significant support to the Underwater Centre through its recent challenges.”
He added: “We will continue to do all we can as this latest very unwelcome situation develops, given that we firmly believe the Underwater Centre at Fort William is a world-class asset with unique capabilities and a highly experienced team.”
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “No stone has been left unturned in finding a means to keep the Underwater Centre running. There has been a lot of political will to support the Underwater Centre over the last few months – it is an organisation of global significance, built up over many years in Fort William.”
Photographs: The Underwater Centre
As a former instructor at the Underwater Centre at Fort William sorry to hear if its demise.
No stone un-turned!!!!!!!!!!!! David McGhie is a lying crook who knew about this well before myself and other ROV students paid the money…….almost £12,000.
My money was paid on the Thursday before the course started on the Monday & then to be told on the Wednesday “Sorry guys we did what we could, we knew that this might happen, but we hoped that it wouldn’t” And then being told that the center in Tazmania had to be closed down to keep the Fort William center open is just another “cat out of the bag” so to speak.
They knew this when they took our money because i am damn sure that if i had been told this before paying thousands of pounds there is certainly no way that i would have gone through with it.
Now i am out of pocket £12K without any certificate to show for it either.
I was also told that when he took over in May / June that the company would be a non-profit organisation, if this is so he knew from the word go that all the money that he would be taking in would be going to pay the debt that he had taken over.
I was also told that they were in arrears with the rent on the building. I heard the guys speaking after the all the shock of what we had been told about the center that with all the students raging from various courses, with the students that was there alone it would have amounted to the region of £250,000…………how in gods name can they do this to people, where did all the money go??????????? Unbelievable & absolutely disgusting, a complete fraud. How could they carry on trading when they knew that the center was in this big a state of debt??
One other international student that i had spoke to from Canada had spent over $30K to get there and carry out the course and did not receive his cert either, as well as Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, South Africa.
This guys should never be allowed to manage a company again.