UK hovercraft firm to conduct oil spill study in Caspian Sea

UK’s hovercraft manufacturer Griffon Hoverwork has signed an agreement with KMGSS, a subsidiary of Kazakh state oil company KazMunayGas, to carry out a study on using hovercraft to clear oil spills and support offshore rigs in the Caspian Sea.

The agreement is supported by UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) and opens up a new market to Griffon Hoverwork and the UK.

Future contracts following the study are potentially worth over £100 million ($130.4 M) for new hovercraft supporting at least 70 jobs in the Southampton area.

The signing of the contract took place on Wednesday as International Trade Minister Greg Hands visited the UK Pavilion at the Astana Expo, showcasing the UK’s expertise in oil & gas and other energy production.

Minister Hands said: “Griffon Hoverwork is a prime example of the UK’s engineering excellence, with the sort of world-leading expertise DIT is helping to showcase at the UK Pavilion in the Astana Expo.

“This agreement will see the UK using hovercraft to overcome complex environmental challenges in the Caspian Sea, with huge potential for jobs back in the UK.”

Managing director of Griffon Hoverwork, Adrian Went, said: “This agreement on enabling work for using hovercraft in the Caspian Sea is a huge step for Griffon Hoverwork and the UK. It has been great to have this meeting and signing, with the support of the Department for International Trade, ensuring that our UK-based engineering will help tackle the major challenges in the region.”

In recent years the Caspian Sea has seen water levels drop potentially making large parts inaccessible to ships. Hovercrafts have the ability to move over shallow water without disturbing oil spills, making them ideal for resupplying oil rigs in the area and cleaning up pollution, the UK government noted.

Griffon will carry out an environmental impact assessment, to ensure that hovercraft can be used without impacting on local ecosystems, using technology it developed with Southampton University.

As far as investments from the UK go, it is already the 6th largest investor into Kazakhstan, and DIT has helped create 51 partnerships between UK and Kazakh companies since 2012. Minister Hands also announced a doubling of UK financial support, up to £2.5 billion ($3.25 billion), available to UK companies looking to export to Kazakhstan or to help Kazakh companies buy products and services from the UK.

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