The Magazine for Underwater Professionals
Having first visited UK-based SMP some 17 years ago, on a return visit UCi's Michael Cocks finds that the company has expanded considerably
It is always interesting to retrace one’s steps and it is hard to realise that it is almost 17 years since I last visited SMP (Submarine Manufacturing and Products). The company was then based at a farm, with llamas, sheep, and other animals, and I was there to try out a new hot water system, which worked very well. The company was set up in 1984 by Phil Connolly and has expanded considerably since my last visit.
I was shown round the new headquarters, where the company has been for the past seven years, by Tony Crowley, the commercial manager, who has been with SMP for six months. He is a former naval clearance diver and a keen technical diver and I was pleased to find out that he knows most of the “characters” in the industry.
A new joint managing director, Ian Thomson, has also recently joined the company, which now employs 57 personnel, including four apprentices, one of whom, Matthew Thompson, has recently won the Year 2 Mechanical Engineering Apprentice of the Year at Blackpool and The Fylde College.
As I have said, the company is expanding rapidly, with turnover up more than 30% in the first half of this year. An increasing proportion of work, approaching three quarters of sales, is won overseas and I had met representatives of the company, Ross Connolly and Andrew Scott, at the Canadian Underwater Conference in Toronto in April. The company has been particularly successful winning orders in Africa but has high hopes of further progress in America and China.
SMP has great potential to expand its manufacturing facility on the present site, as it owns a further seven acres (28,000 square metres) of adjacent land. Its equipment is IMCA compliant and meets the requirements of Lloyds, DNV and the American Bureau of Shipping Standards. It specialises in air, mixed gas and saturation diving equipment, diver launch and recovery systems, containerised dive control and diver compression solutions, hot water machines, surface air diving control panels and is shortly to expand further with a range of ROV products.
SMP can also supply all the ancillary equipment used by a commercial diver and is an authorised training centre for Kirby Morgan Helmet Maintenance Technicians and supplies Kirby Morgan spares. I was impressed by its extensive product brochure, which makes very clear the wide range of products it provides for the commercial diving industry.
It is gratifying to find a company that is so successful in earning business overseas. I feel certain that it will continue to meet the expanding needs of what is still a growth industry. Phil Connolly, who remains very active in the business and is still flying his two helicopters, must be very proud of the considerable progress of SMP since he began diving in the Manchester Ship Canal, where I too had one of my earliest dives and as a result became a shareholder, before the company was taken over by John Whittaker, one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the North West of England.
Details – SMP, Blackpool Road, Newton, Preston, Lancashire PR 4 3RE, UK; tel: +44 (0)1772 687775; web: www.smp-ltd.co.uk