British Industry and the North Sea: State Intervention in a by Michael Jenkin

By Michael Jenkin

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54 Clearly, this was not a satisfactory situation for a nation possessing a sophisticated industrial structure which was technically capable of occupying a larger share of the market. This consideration, in combination with the likely effects on the balance of payments of the importation of significant amounts of capital equipment and services from abroad to develop the oil fields, and a consequent loss of potential employment opportunities, contributed to a strong case for government involvement in the offshore supply industry.

Despite these considerations, however, it could still be argued that the lack of initial engagement by British industry simply reflected a lack of entrepreneurial skill on the part of British industrial managers. After all, Dutch firms were able to capitalise on gas platform orders that were on British industry's doorstep when they themselves had no offshore developments and were under the same handicaps concerning entry to the market that British firms faced. Whatever the reasons for British reluctance, the initial performance of British industry in the offshore market can only be described as 'disappointing'.

52 Furthermore, oil company executives themselves are divided as to the competence of British firms. Most claim that it is difficult to generalise about the initial capacities of British firms in the market. Some were good; some were not so good. Several executives stated that while there were many British firms which were not good suppliers, not all foreign suppliers were uniformly competent either. 8 4·5 4 I2 II 7 7 5 8 USA Bids Delivery times (months) (£'ooo) European Bids Delivery times (£'ooo) (months) 2!

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