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Marine experts go global for African fire safety initiative

Four soldiers stand and look at camera

South Shields Marine School’s experts are sparking an international fire safety collaboration into life in Africa They have provided vital technical know-how that is helping Kenya’s navy build its first specialist fire-fighting training centre.

As part of the initiative, the marine school is also donating important operational kit, including breathing apparatus and two 16-person life rafts. Its 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, the facility, at the Mtongwe naval base in Mombasa, will help seafarers learn how to fight fires in dangerous enclosed spaces –on board ships – potentially saving lives and craft.

The marine school is involved through the work of its Marine and Offshore Safety Training Centre (MOST), also in South Shields. MOST is its offshore survival training centre, a facility used by Merchant Navy and oil and gas industry personnel to learn how to stay safe in an emergency. The centre also boasts a state-of-the-art fire survival training site which teaches people how to avoid injury or loss of life in 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 from marine school personnel. 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.

Keith said:

“This is a terrific initiative for South Shields Marine School and MOST to be involved in. 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. This includes finer details such as the correct positioning of handrails and staircases, hatch dimensions and other important technical advice. I have also helped with the centre’s curriculum design. I’m also delighted that MOST is also able to provide specialist survival equipment. 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”.

Keith 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. And through MOST, its expertise in other maritime arenas, such as training offshore personnel to deal with emergency situations, is also highly regarded. I’m also delighted that we are also at the forefront of enclosed spaces training nationally through our facility at MOST.”

The firefighting centre will be constructed from 11 standard 20ft-long shipping containers, and will also have storage facilities and classrooms. The structure is being fabricated in Nairobi and will be moved by road to Mombasa’s Kenya Navy Training College. As part of the project, Denmark will train Kenya naval personnel as firefighting instructors, in accordance with the standards in STCW.

Commander Cahill said

“The work and generosity of the marine school 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.”

She added:

“South Shields Marine School and particularly Mr 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 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.”

The British Peace Support Team (Africa) – (BPST(A) is a small UK Military organization based in Nairobi, Kenya and made up of UK Military and Civilian Advisors.

Its mission is delivering training support and capability development to multilateral organisations and bilateral African partners in order to build regional capacity for Peace Support Operations, and enable the effective prevention and management of regional conflict.

More information on South Shields Marine School is at or by calling 0191 427 3517.

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