Expansion plan for world leader

Picture Martin Bostock.'Phil Connolly, MD of Submarine Manufacturing and Products, Blackpool Road, Newton which makes award-winning submarine and diving equipment.
Picture Martin Bostock.'Phil Connolly, MD of Submarine Manufacturing and Products, Blackpool Road, Newton which makes award-winning submarine and diving equipment.
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LANDLOCKED Newton has a world leading business – manufacturing subsea and diving equipment.

Submarine Manufacturing and Products, based just off Blackpool Road, is one of just two major firms in its field in the UK – and is set to expand.

The family-run firm manufactures diving, hyperbaric and subsea equipment and repairs and maintains equipment for everyone from major multi-national corporations, down to small scuba shops.

Owner Phil Connolly, from Wesham, said: “Realistically, this business shouldn’t be here – it should be in Aberdeen where our competitors are, close to the offshore rigs.

“But I’m a local Lancashire lad born and bred here and I’ve lived here all my life.

“After I finished working offshore as a diver my view was that after spending so much time away from my family, I wanted to start a business closer to home that was oil related.

“And at the time, in the mid 1980s, they were drilling for oil in Morecambe Bay.

“We started off refurbishing and repairing local diving equipment and then moved into manufacturing it.

“Now we have 48 staff and that’s going to go up in the next six months, probably to 55.”

A great deal of the firm’s work is in exporting, and BP is its largest client.

Mr Connolly added: “The key thing about this business is that 92 per cent of what we do is exported which is just what the country needs right now.”

Sitting in the storage area of the business are metal containers that look like parts of a space station. They are parts of a 12-man saturation system, which can be assembled on the sea bed up to 1,000ft down in which divers stay for 28 days at a time to carry out inspections and make repairs to underwater constructions.

Sixty per cent of the firm’s work is oil and gas-related, 25 per cent is military, and the rest, medical.

And the future looks bright for the 48-strong team with the large-scale introduction of offshore renewable energy technology – all which require undersea maintenance and repair.

Phil said: “We’ve now got offshore renewables. At the bottom of the windfarms they have a mass of cables that needs inspecting and maintaining. The whole offshore industry is going stupid. Offshore renewables are a major source of energy.”

The firm also manufactures hyperbaric oxygen chambers and has two in operation within the NHS, with hopes high for a third in the near future.