Marine training academy set for Stonehaven harbour

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A NEW marine training academy is to established at Stonehaven harbour in a major boost for the Aberdeenshire town, it was revealed today.

Earlier this year the popular tourist town suffered a major economic blow when the Maritime Rescue Institute (MRI) base, which specialised in training lifeboat crews from across the world, was forced to close its doors after its premises and boats at the harbour were badly damaged in December’s storm surge.

But Survival Craft Inspectorate (SCI), a leading Aberdeenshire-based global provider of emergency marine evacuation systems, today announced plans to invest £500,000 on a new training facility for the energy and maritime sectors at the former MRI base.

A company spokesman said: “The facility is expected to annually host around 5,000 students seeking to enhance their skills across a diverse range of marine and safety related disciplines. SCI is delighted to have acquired the site – and to be honouring its maritime past.”

SCI has grown from a business first started in a workshop at Findon, near Portlethen, in 1991 to a global company operating in ten locations across the world with a staff of 150 and an annual turnover of around £25 million.The company earned a Queen’s Award for Enterprise two years ago.

Angus Campbell, the managing director of SCI, said: “We’re delighted to announce this expansion of our services to support the marine and offshore industries.The academy will represent a quality new training resource for students, coxswains and offshore personnel.

“Crew training and competency is a growing area of our business today and this strategic acquisition fits in well with SCI’s long-term growth objectives.”

He added: “The facility will bolster SCI’s training offering to clients in the North Sea and internationally as it relates to equipment installed on their installations. The business presently supplies 100 lifeboat and davit launch systems and 400 Safelaunch lifeboat release and retrieval systems (LRRS) per annum.”

Derek Sinclair, the company’s chief executive, said: “This development helps to set us apart from our competitors and gives our clients added assurance that we take training and safety extremely seriously.

“Additionally, we’re confident the academy will boost local hotels and shops because of the numbers of people who will attend the facility. Previously, MRI – an organisation which was internationally recognised as an expert in this field – trained organisations such as the Dutch Lifeboat Authority and special forces from different parts of the world. We would expect our new academy to attract similar such organisations.”

He added: “We’ve had tremendous support from Stonehaven Harbour Board and Aberdeenshire Council to help this idea become a reality. It’s an exciting time for SCI and we’re sure our new training academy will bring further success to our company and to the area as whole.”

A company spokesman explained: “Initially, six jobs are to be created at the SCI Marine Training Academy, with plans to add additional staff by the end of the year.”

MRI had been based in Stonehaven for more than 30 years and, in addition to its specialist training services in maritime rescue, had also provided volunteer crews to provide 24 hour search and rescue lifeboat response via the Coastguard for a 25 mile stretch of the Aberdeenshire coast and up to 50 nautical miles offshore.

In April; the RNLI announced the charity’s intention to press ahead with plans to fast track the opening of a new lifeboat station at Stonehaven following an enthusiastic response from potential volunteers.