Staff from the world-renowned South Shields Marine School (SSMS) at South Tyneside College have provided vital technical know-how to help Kenya’s navy build its first specialist fire-fighting training centre.
The team also donated important operational kit – including breathing apparatus and two 16-person life rafts – to bolster the lifesaving initiative.
Their work is part of a joint British and Danish armed forces project to improve Kenya’s naval capabilities, keep its sailors safe – and boost international co-operation.
Once operational, which could be later this year, the facility will help seafarers learn how to fight fires in dangerous enclosed spaces, potentially saving lives and craft.
SSMS, which is part of Tyne Coast College, is involved through the work of its Marine and Offshore Safety Training Centre (MOST) in South Shields.
MOST is an offshore survival training centre, used by Merchant Navy and oil and gas industry personnel to learn how to stay safe in an emergency.
It also boasts a state-of-the-art fire survival training site which teaches people how to avoid injury or loss of life in high risk environments, at sea and on land.
Curriculum leader Keith Trotter has led MOST’s Kenya project work in liaison with Commander Karen Cahill, of the Royal Navy, who requested support.
“This is a terrific initiative for South Shields Marine School and MOST to be involved in,” he said.
“Through it, we are further showcasing our skills and expertise on the international stage, adding ever more kudos to the work we do year-round in the UK.
“I have given detailed advice and guidance to the British Peace Support team about what exactly the new centre should comprise of.
“Importantly, the new centre will operate to global standards set by the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) for seafarers.
“The marine school’s deep experience and knowledge has been instrumental to the delivery of this exciting project.”
He added: “South Shields Marine School is recognised globally for the exceptional training it delivers to people working, or wishing to work, in the Merchant Navy.”
The firefighting centre has been established at the Mtongwe naval base in Mombasa, which Keith said gave Kenya’s navy a much-needed training resource.
It has been constructed from 11 standard 20ft-long shipping containers, and will also have storage facilities and classrooms.
The structure was fabricated in Nairobi and moved by road to Mombasa’s Kenya Navy Training College.
As part of the project, Denmark will train Kenyan naval personnel as firefighting instructors, in accordance with the standards in STCW.
Commander Cahill is maritime adviser to the British Peace Support Team (Africa) – BPST(A), which is working on the project with the Danish Peace and Stabilisation programme.
“The work and generosity of SSMS in sharing its knowledge and expertise would progress efforts to support the African Blue Economy – the stewardship of seas - and expand job opportunities for those aspiring to become merchant mariners,” said Commander Cahill.
“SSMS, and particularly Keith Trotter, have been hugely supportive of the British Peace Support Team (Africa) in their delivery of a Firefighting Training Unit to the Kenya Navy Training College.”
The Commander added: “The unit will enable progress towards IMO certification and allow Kenya military and merchant sailors to proceed to sea with much needed firefighting and sea survival training.
“The provision of technical expertise, knowledge and training material by South Shields Marine School has been invaluable to the joint UK and Danish project.
“It has helped avoid many pitfalls during the build stage and has expedited the progress towards the delivery of training courses.
“It is a worldwide requirement for merchant sailors to be STCW qualified prior to employment at sea.
“Unlike the UK, IMO accredited courses in Africa are in short supply, therefore it is difficult for Africans to get jobs at sea.”
More information on South Shields Marine School is at www.stc.ac.uk/marine or by calling 0191 427 3517.