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Royal visitor unveils £1.75 million maritime and logistics training package

His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, The Duke of York will unveil an innovative £1.75 million training package that is designed to position Merseyside as a global leader in maritime and logistics training, and is the first of its kind in Europe, when he visits Mersey Maritime tomorrow (Thursday, 17 April 2008).

The Duke, who served for 22 years in the Royal Navy, will also reveal the new name for the Laird Foundation in Birkenhead, which merged with Mersey Maritime in 2007, and tomorrow becomes the Maritime and Engineering College North West. He will meet learners and staff at the college, along with representatives of maritime businesses, and be invited to try out new state-of-the-art maritime training equipment, which works in a similar way to flight simulators, used to train pilots across the world.

Mersey Maritime represents over 1,000 businesses on Merseyside, which together provide more than 26,000 jobs in the city-region and contribute £2.5 billion to the local economy each year.

The organisation's new 'Quay Skills' Centre, located at the college, is based around a suite of simulators. These will provide maritime and logistics training using virtual reality technology developed for the international gaming and film industries, and their launch follows 12 months of development by Mersey Maritime, in partnership with AIMS Solutions (Liverpool) and ITS Training Limited. The project will provide training for more than 500 people and provide 11 jobs by December 2008.

The new training facilities focus on two areas; port operations, and international trade and logistics. The port operations package developed by AIMS (Liverpool) includes three novel simulators which allow users to replicate conditions of real-life, potentially dangerous, or unusual work situations, such as high winds, that may arise in a port, within a completely safe environment.

The Duke of York will view the first of three simulators to be installed at the college, with a further two arriving during the summer. Learners will use the equipment to drive virtual forklift trucks and land-based tugs, gantry and quay cranes and a straddle carrier in the re-created virtual environments of Twelve Quays, Birkenhead and Seaforth Container Terminal. As well as equipment, other realistic elements such as the Ro-Ro ferry are incorporated into the scenario. Virtual workers also within the scene have been created by real people wearing motion capture suits, to simulate authentic behaviour. Meanwhile, the application of physics ensures that any objects affected by movement are seen to react in a realistic way.

The software package designed by AIMS (Liverpool) as part of Quay Skills also includes a web-based simulator for health and safety training. This assesses the trainee's knowledge in a computer-generated environment and can be accessed by companies or individuals anywhere in the world, at low cost.

The international trade and logistics package developed by ITS Training Limited simulates real-life work situations in the industry, anywhere in the world, involving almost any commodity. Students are expected to solve problems and are faced with realistic workloads, dealing with ports and cargoes in changing situations. Facilities include eight interactive workstations and the training requires groups of students to take on the roles of a shipping line, freight forwarder, customs and excise officers, haulier, bank, and port, alongside buyers and sellers.

Jim Teasdale, chief executive of Mersey Maritime, said: “We are delighted to welcome His Royal Highness to Mersey Maritime to announce the new name of the college and unveil our new Quay Skills training programme. This training has been developed to meet employer demand and will be available on a phased basis between now and the end of the year. It will not only bring quality and efficiency benefits to maritime businesses on Merseyside, but will also appeal to a global market, attracting interest and investment from companies throughout the international maritime sector. It firmly places Merseyside at the centre of the world's maritime industry.”

In order to develop Quay Skills, Mersey Maritime, with the support of Wirral Council, was awarded £656,000 from the Single Regeneration Budget (SRB), funded by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and £656,000 European funding from the Merseyside Objective One Programme. A further £450,000 investment has come from the private sector to help implement the project.

David Ball, head of housing and regeneration at Wirral Council, said: “The Council is very proud to be associated with this project which significantly develops the competitive strength of the North West region in terms of world class maritime training. The innovative technologies in the Quay Skills Centre complement the state-of-the-art facilities already available at the Laser Engineering Centre and the 360 degree ship simulator at the Lairdside Maritime Centre in Wirral, and provide a focus for the maritime sector which is going from strength to strength.

“The Centre is an exemplar of private and public sector partnership and vision, and it will bring significant economic and employment opportunities to both Wirral and Merseyside”.

Companies interested in further information on the Quay Skills training programme should telephone Annette Parker at Mersey Maritime on 0151 647 4747 or email info@merseymaritime.co.uk. A demonstration of the virtual technology used can be viewed at www.quayskills.co.uk

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