Category description

Due to the inherent risks involved in traditional manned diving, technology advances continue to allow more and more underwater tasks to be performed using Remote Operated Vehicles (ROV's). ROV's are underwater robots of different sizes and capabilities that are operated from the surface by special trained ROV-pilots. These robots can be fitted with cameras, manipulators, survey sensors, and other tools for specific construction and inspection tasks, and are used for offshore and inshore projects. The International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) classifies ROV's into 5 different classes each with different capabilities. These classes are;

  • Class I - Observation ROV

Pure observation vehicle are physically limited to video observation only. Generally they are small vehicles fitted with video camera, lights and thrusters. They cannot undertake any other task without considerable modification. 

  • Class II - Observation ROV with payload option

Vehicles capable of carrying additional sensors such as still color cameras, cathodic protection measurement systems, additional video cameras and sonar systems. Class II vehicles should be capable of operating without loss of original function while carrying at least two additional sensors. 

  • Class III - Workclass ROV 

Vehicles large enough to carry additional sensors and/or manipulators. Class III vehicles commonly have a multiplexing capability that allows additional sensors and tools to operate without being “hardwired” through the umbilical system. These vehicles are larger and more powerful than Classes I and II. 

Class III A - < 100 Hp
Class III B - 100 Hp to 150 Hp

Class III C - >150 Hp 

  • Class IV - Seabed ROV 

Seabed-working vehicles maneuver on the seabed by a wheel or belt traction system, by thruster propellers or water jet power, or by combinations of any of these propulsion methods. 

Class IV vehicles are typically much larger and heavier than Class III work class vehicles, and are configured for special purpose tasks. Such tasks typically include cable and pipeline trenching, excavation, dredging and other remotely operated seabed construction work. 

  • Class V - Prototype or development vehicles 

Vehicles in this class include those being developed and those regarded as prototypes. Special-purpose vehicles that do not fit into one of the other classes are also assigned to Class V. 

The selection of the correct ROV for the work is largely reliant on task at hand, although environmental conditions and power generation are also an important factor. With larger ROV's comes greater expense due to the increase cost of the equipment and additional personnel. However, when compared to manned diving the cost is likely to be significantly less and in some circumstances only capable for completion by ROV due to the depth in that man dives are limited (600msw)

Risks & Opportunities

Value opportunities and risk are features or requirements that may add or detract from the overall value offered. 

To ensure value is maximized attention should be given to the following areas;

  • Technology - As with many cases technology is a huge enabler with the introduction of higher specification ROVs constantly expanding the capabilities of subsea work. Such has allowed high risk and costly task to be carried out at relative little expense in comparison in the safest possible environment. Whilst technology is an enabler the selection of the correct vehicle for the task should be carefully consider in particular where the vehicle is new or innovative.
  • Personnel - The selection of ROV personnel should be based upon qualifications and experience demonstrated on similar projects. It is important for the personnel to understand the limitation of the vehicle as to ensure the ROV is utilized in the most cost efficient and safe manner. Retention of crew.
  • Support Platform - ROV operations may be carried out from a number of varied floating or fixed platforms, including Diving Support Vessels (DSV), Supply Boats and fixed platforms. The selection of the appropriate platform base should be considered based upon a through risk assessment considering the task at hand.  Less suitable - weather and downtime.

Supply & Demand Dynamics

The global shift towards securing resources in deeper water has led to consistent increase in expenditure due to the more complicated field development programs and the demand for higher specification ROVs. It is anticipated that lower global demand for deepwater drilling, field development, and inspection, maintenance and repair activities due to the decline of oil prices since the start of the fourth quarter of 2014. At a global scale low level growth can still be expected led by Asia, as well as Africa, Brazil and GOM.

Drilling support of exploration and appraisal (E&A) and subsea development wells is the main ROV activity demand driver, accounting for 75% of the total expenditure between 2013 and 2017. Construction support accounts for 20%, and repair and maintenance for 4%. 

The largest regional market is expected to be Africa with other important players identified as Latin America, North America, and Asia. The Golden Triangle, comprising Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and Africa, is forecast to account for the majority of global ROV demand, but Asia will see significant growth. 

While ROV support is needed in a variety of industries, such as research, military, and offshore wind power, its primary use is by the oil and gas sector. Thus, the global demand for energy, of which oil and gas makes up 57%, is the main underlying driver behind ROV demand. 

ROV support activity is driven by a number of supply and demand side factors, including: 

  • Increasing offshore exploration, appraisal, and development, and the move to deeper water drives expenditure on ROV drilling support operations. 
  • Increasing installation of subsea equipment and hardware requires greater ROV construction support expenditure. 
  • A large and growing offshore infrastructure of platform installations, subsea wells, flowlines, and cables drives the use of ROVs in the subsea inspection reliability and maintenance (R&M) market. 

The Middle East is the smallest ROV operations market, accounting for less than 2% of the global total ROV days in 2013. As a predominantly shallow-water region, the growth in activity levels forecast in the other regions is not expected to be mirrored in the Middle East. Expenditure on ROV support in the Middle East is forecast to fall substantially, almost halving as it decreases to USD 27 million in 2017. ROV activity in this area is almost entirely driven by trunkline installation and E&A well drilling support. 

Key Players

The following suppliers operate regionally within the GCC providing ROV services:

  • Canyon Offshore
  • DeepOcean Group
  • DOF Subsea
  • Harkand
  • Saipem
  • Technip
  • Boskalis
  • Dulam International
  • Halul Offshore Services
  • Oceaneering
  • Horizon Geoscience
  • CCC
  • Fugro
  • Impresub
  • NPCC
  • Marine Engineering Diving Services

External Scanning

Buyer's are in a very dominant position due to the competition amongst Suppliers' for market share across a small number of opportunities. Furthermore, risk of new "cheap" entry is always possible.

Portfolio Positioning

Portfolio positioning is essential in guiding strategy within the category. The category is positioned based upon three factors; 1) supply risk, 2) profit/value risk, and 3) power structure.

Based upon a detailed analysis the sub-category is positioned as a ROUTINE sub-category (ie. low supply risk, low profit/value risk).

  • Low supply risk is supported by; 1) the large selection of suppliers, 2) the ease of switching, 3) the standardization of equipment, 4) low competitive demand with regional buyers.
  • Low/medium profit/value risk is determined by; 1) the low levels of expenditure, 2) low value generation.
  • Power is strongly favored towards the Buyer (See External Scanning section)

Cost & Price Analysis


ROV Services prices have seen a general upward trend over the past 5 years. Higher specification ROV Services have seen the greatest increase due to the limited supply of equipment and competent personnel. This has been supported by buoyant oil prices and higher demand of services in the past however will see downward pressure during lower oil prices.

Due to the competitive nature of the sub-category profit margins of no more than 10% can be expected. 


The actual cost of ROV Services largely depends on the type of ROV as well as the expertise of the crew associated with performing the duties. Generally, cost can be split 40:60 equipment to personnel. 

Value Chain Analysis

New Build ROV Manufacturers

- Forum Energy Technologies

- Saab Seaeye

- Schilling Robotics

- Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD)

- VideoRay

- Fugro

- Hallin Marine

- IKM Gruppe

- Oceaneering International Inc.

- Subsea 7 S.A.

Total Cost of Ownership

The compensation methodology should remain simple and transparent. Where the ROV is provided as part of a larger package of services the ROV will be provided within the daily rate of the vessel or the lump sum provided.

Where ROV Services are located on the Oil Company's provided vessel the compensation methodology should include:

  • Mobilisation and Demobilisation Charge - usually on a per mob/demob basis,
  • Operating Day Rate - usually a daily charge for ROV per 24hrs,
  • Personnel Day Rate - usually a daily charge for Personnel per 12hrs,

It must be noted that where the ROV Service are provided onboard a Oil Company provided vessel, breakdowns in the vessel or the ROV result in charges being incurred despite no work actually being performed. Following, it is appropriate to carry out a risk analysis to understand where these risk are most appropriately managed based upon the scope of work, budget and time constraints.


The sub-category analysis carried out presents a strong case for a strategy that maintains or further maximizes the power of the buyer. 

There are a number of ways in achieving this however the items should be considered:

  •  Aggregate Spend - Buyer's should look to leverage regional spend across the sub-categories given the commonality of suppliers in the category. This may include Air or SAT Diving Services.
  • Competitive Tender - Tenders should be conducted to ensure maximum competition,
  • Negotiation Style - Supplier should be approached with direct and hard (slightly aggressive) negotiations. The buyer should capitalize on market intelligence and seek to target prices based upon their understanding of costs and market conditions. Buyer's should target profit margins,

In general the sub-category strategy is focused upon a traditional arm length relationship with the suppliers.