ENCLOSED in polished glass cases, miniature vessels adorn DeepOcean UK’s conference room.

Pristinely presented and decorated in bright colours, their decks are laden with miniscule equipment.

Such intricate creations are a nod to the firm’s expertise.

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Renowned across the oil, gas and renewable sectors, the company, part of the wider DeepOcean Group, digs trenches and lays power cables for offshore energy developments.

Its Darlington office and marine site in South Bank, near Middlesbrough, are complemented by bases in the Netherlands, Norway, Brazil, Mexico, Singapore and Ghana.

But, like a vessel rocking and rolling against a violent North Sea, DeepOcean has done it tough this year.

How bosses must wish the transparent protective blankets afforded to their diminutive display craft could be used to shroud the business in the real world.

In January, the firm revealed up to 45 workers faced redundancy after it succumbed to the price of oil tumbling below $50 a barrel.

The announcement came as a major shock.

Just months previously, it had secured the largest contract in its history to dig trenches on the £1bn Western Link project, which will transfer enough power for about two million people from Scotland to England and Wales through cables in the Irish Sea.

It also went to China to do the same on the Liwan 3-1 gas project, which is expected to produce daily sales of 300 million cubic feet of gas, and supported installation of cables on Belgium’s 50-turbine Bligh Phase II Offshore Wind Farm.

But it wasn’t alone; many other well-known organisations, such as North Sea operators BP and Talisman-Sinopec, suffered the same fate, and the oil and gas sector remains in a state of flux.

But the upset ran deeper, and bosses pleaded for a reponse from the Government on why more UK offshore renewables work was apparently going to foreign rivals.

Answers were not immediately forthcoming.

However, hope was not lost.

The company regrouped and the first green shoots of its recovery are beginning to appear.

Last week, DeepOcean, which employs about 100 workers in the region, announced two new contracts, one in the Irish Sea and one Down Under, which its UK division will lead.

Bosses have told The Northern Echo they anticipate more contracts by the end of the year, with an increase in its workforce likely.

On its recent successes, Dong Energy wants DeepOcean to carry out trenching and cable installation on the Walney Extension offshore wind farm, which officials say will provide enough puff to annually power 460,000 homes.

The benefits of its presence on the 90-turbine development are two-fold.

For DeepOcean, the contract represents a real fillip as it bids to strengthen its reputation.

But it also puts another tick in the box of the North-East supply chain, with Offshore Structures (Britain) Limited, in Haverton Hill, near Billingham, already planning to make 40 transition pieces for Walney, which will include platforms and boat landing areas.

DeepOcean’s work is due to start in 2017 using the new Maersk Connector vessel, which will oversee the digging of a route to lay nearly 100 miles of cabling that will link the wind farm to power stations.

In Australian waters, DeepOcean’s Volantis boat will carry out trenching and surveying work.

For a firm whose extensive fleet also includes using a craft carrying the Phoenix moniker, it’s not too trite to start talking about a rise once again.

Bart Heijermans, DeepOcean group chief executive, said the prospects of such were strong, particularly on swelling the number of offshore workers it employs as projects loom closer.

Such optimism bodes well for DeepOcean’s office, which is based in Darlington’s Coniscliffe Road.

There, workers oversee engineering, design and geo-technical investigation work and manage goods, services and equipment, while at its marine site in South Bank, near Middlesbrough, staff prepare equipment for use in the world’s waters.

Speaking to The Northern Echo from DeepOcean’s offices in The Netherlands, Mr Heijermans said: “We have made some good progress, especially in the renewable sector in the UK.

“We have the contracts we have announced and have another couple of opportunities we are working on, which we hope to reveal this year.

“There is work in the UK still, we are pushing for that and the project with Dong is part of it.

“The company is one of the most experienced offshore wind developers and for us to work with someone like that is something we have been trying to do for quite some time.

“It’s pleasing they see what we are building here as a business.

“The Darlington office is very busy and there is a lot of work that goes on in there on contracts like the Dong deal.

“When we get closer to execution, and further towards these projects, we will have to staff up with personnel.

“It’s part of the cycle.”

The situation is a marked difference from ten months ago, when DeepOcean vowed to take its fight to Westminster, demanding answers from the Government on claims it had failed to stop UK offshore projects going to foreign rivals.

At the time, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin told The Northern Echo talks had taken place between the Government and companies, with Chancellor George Osborne also around the table, to fathom a solution.

However, the discussions came too late for DeepOcean, formerly known as CTC Marine Projects Limited, which was forced to reorganise its global divisions to stay competitive.

Splitting into two main operations, with one focused on the greater North Sea region and another looking at international work, Mr Heijermans said the changes would give it every chance of succeeding going forward.

Speaking in January, Mr Heijermans said: “We’ve had a couple of good years, but we now need to re-position the business so it can have more good years in the future.

“The price of oil has fallen so we have to adjust, and quite a lot of the offshore wind farm work has been contracted to non-UK companies.

“We have been investing out of Darlington in new trenchers and vessels to be positioned for work.

“But for some reason, work is not coming to this region and is going out of the UK instead.”

But what of the here and now; have things changed since the start of the year?

Is the company still trapped inside a perfect storm of oil prices, its diminishing reserves, the US shale gas revolution and the vulnerable global economy?

Well, according to Mr Heijermans, it’s a bit of one and some of the other.

Instability, he says, is still overt, particularly in oil and gas, but he adds salvation may be on the horizon.

The price of oil remains stubbornly around $50 a barrel, and forecasters say that will continue into next year at least, though there is potential for it to rise above $60 in 2016.

Mr Heijermans says the latter could give DeepOcean the necessary safety surrounds, much like the glass cases afforded to its mini vessels, it needs to continue its renaissance.

He added: “The oil and gas sector is still pretty bad, and it is taking longer than people had first feared in turning around.”

“But even when the price was high some of the companies were struggling.

“At the end of the day, because of the redundancies made, the oil price won’t have to go back to $80 or $100 a barrel to generate new demand.

“When the price goes north of $65 a barrel, that’s when I believe we will see a pick-up in activity.”