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Whether you’re joining us for a Merchant Navy Refresher course, or an Advanced Diploma in Marine Engineering, our friendly and supportive team is here to help you achieve your full potential.

Simon Ashton
Mel Irving
Advanced Simulation and Data Modelling
Michael Speers
HOS for Marine Offshore Safety Training
Jon Milner
HOS for Nautical Sciences
Christopher Gray
HOS for Marine Engineering
Lucy Howlett
Marine Commercial Administrator


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I went to sea in 1965 as an apprentice with Elder Dempster Lines and sailed on a variety of ships from General Cargo, Passenger, Crude oil tankers and Product Carriers. I then obtained my Master’s F.G. certificate in 1976 before becoming a First-Class Pilot in Orkney manoeuvring a variety of ship types from Squared rigged sailing vessels, Coasters, VLCC’s, Passenger Liners, Warships through to specialised Offshore vessels such as the Thialf crane Barge.

After almost 30 years as a Pilot, I came to the College working on the Bridge Simulator and have worked in the simulation department for 12 years and been involved in many projects. These include the training of Pilots and PEC holders for the first 2 phases of the new port of Tanger Med, 3 phases of the development of Jebel Ali, work on the 2 new CVF Aircraft Carriers and the development of the Tengiz Oil Field in Kazakhstan, which won the College the Queen’s Anniversary Prize.

Mel Irving
Advanced Simulation Manager
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I started my career as a cadet with Shell Tankers and progressed on to employment with Blue Star Ship Management working on refrigerated vessels and container ships. After I ended my seagoing career, I completed an Honours Degree in Transport, worked with the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and progressed on to various roles in port operations including being Port Operations Manager of a stevedoring, warehousing and transport company.

I started working for South Shields Marine School thirteen years ago, initially as a lecturer teaching cargo operations and meteorology. I was promoted to Curriculum Leader with responsibility for overseas students and then to Head of School at MOST six years ago. I particularly enjoy the challenges of running the training centre and find it very satisfying working with our excellent team and seeing students successfully complete their courses having received a world class training experience.

Michael Speers
Head of School, Marine & Offshore Safety Training (MOST)
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My cadet journey began 16 years ago at SSMS and since becoming qualified, I’ve worked on a variety of ships worldwide including container ships, ro-ro ferries and offshore support vessels. I then completed my bachelor’s degree in engineering and was offered a lecturing job at the college, initially teaching ship stability and engineering project.

After teaching a wide range of different subjects over the years, I was then promoted to curriculum leader for engineering foundation degrees, followed by head of school for marine degrees and certification. I mostly enjoy providing a first-class learning experience on all of my programmes and working with a highly specialised and experienced team of industry professionals every day to ensure this.

Christopher Gray
Head of School, Marine Degrees and Certification
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In 1995, I started out as a deck cadet for P&O Containers (later P&O Nedlloyd) at SSMS. I later qualified as an OOW in 1998, Chief Mates in 2003 and Masters in 2009, all at the marine school. I served on container ships sailing worldwide until I left the sea in 2010.
After a brief spell as a marine surveyor, I started as a lecturer at SSMS teaching a wide variety of different subjects. I was promoted to Curriculum Leader of Collaborative Programmes in 2014 and Head of School in 2018. The best thing about working at SSMS is seeing the joy on the students faces after they pass their exams and qualify for their Certificates of Competency, knowing that it was down to not only their hard work but the first class experience they had here with our team of outstanding maritime professionals.

Jon Milner
Head of School, Deck Officer Certification


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I joined the Marine School in September 2015 and the best part of my job is seeing and helping learners progress onto cadetships, whilst working closely with shipping companies and providing support where it is needed.

Naomi Hall
Lecturer/Personal Performance Coach
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I joined South Shields Marine School in 2014, as a Personal Learning Coach. My role has been supporting students, including overseas students. This includes support with progression and their development, through one to one reviews; ensuring the students are attending college, therefore being aware of any barriers to their learning.

I support Pre-Cadets with application forms for their sponsorships and I am also a safeguarding Officer.

I also started teaching as a lecturer in 2017 in the Marine School, teaching Marine Industries, Law and Management, Level 3, HNC and HND.

Julie Rowe

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