ROVs were introduced into commercial North Sea operations In the late 1970's and met with a hostile reaction from the diving companies and operators of manned submersibles By the mid 1980's the manned submersible operators were driven out of business by dynamically positioned DSV's and pipeline inspection ROVs. Today there are estimated to be over 2,500 ROVs operated by at least 77 companies worldwide, but the majority are still engaged on simple tasks The author argues that little real technical progress has been made in recent years and believes that the ultimate commercial challenge is not deep water operations, but economic operation In shallower waters, where to date the diver has been most cost-effective.
In 1976 some 3 ROVs were in commercial operation, by 1986 the number had grown to 300 and In 1993 there are likely to be almost 2,500 and when military ones are included perhaps 3,000 worldwide (figures 1 & 2). Analysis of the 1993 ROV Review
(Ref 1) shows
Table 1 ROVs by Type (Available in full paper)
fig 1 ROVs by Type(Available in full paper)
fig 2 ROVs by Number (Available in full paper)
Deam Given notes in his ROV Review that it is an incomplete listing, as In general it only shows the production of existing companies, many have left the business or did not respond to the survey. (Therefore the author has added 100 inspection vehicles to the Gwen totals to attempt to compensate, as for example the large numbers of the RCV 225 were not included). ROVs are being produced by about 62 manufacturers. Supporting them are literally hundreds of suppliers of Items of equipment ranging from underwater connectors to deployment systems (a study carried out by DWA for DTI identified3 50 companies - Ref 2).
"Special" ROVs form an Interesting category as they range from a 75 cm diameter ROV to the huge SUPRA, 37 x 12 x 9 metres of 400 tonnes displacement
Given notes that In the 80's that "by any standard progress was limited" and that "by the end of this decade there should be absolutely no technical or economic reason why almost every subsea task is not being done either by robotics or by remote control". But similar statements have been made before, why have they not come to be? Perhaps one element might be the considerable duplication of technical effort, does the industry leally need 38 different types of inspection ROV?
The first fields In the Northern North Sea, Hamilton Argyle and BP Forties came on-stream In 1974 At that time the records of the AODC show that a total of 690 divers were at work in the North Sea Numbers peaked at 1,398 In 1985, then began a slow decline to a 1992 total of 772, a level not seen since the mid 1970's