Smooth sailing for Ireland’s first maritime college

IRELAND’S first dedicated maritime college was in ship-shape form yesterday and is ready to open for lectures next Monday.

Learning to manoeuvre ships using one of the world’s most advanced ship simulators and practicing underwater helicopter evacuation techniques in a giant water tank will be among the highlights for students attending the €51 million National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork.

The NMCI will cater for marine studies students from Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and for the non-military needs of the Irish Naval Service (INS).

Up to 200 are expected through the doors next Monday.

Yesterday, CIT director Dr Brendan Murphy, the head of the NMCI director Donal Burke and the NMCI’s associate director Commander Tom Tuohy said they expected the new college to become a major attraction for international trainees, reinforcing Ireland’s position as a centre of excellence in maritime training.

But even before it opens for lectures, the NMCI is already attracting interest from abroad.

“New Zealand and Australian navy officers are due to tour the college next week to view the facilities,” Cdr Tuohy said.

Sea survival facilities, including a helicopter ‘dunker’ in a giant water tank that can simulate fierce storm conditions, fire-fighting and leak damage control simulators, jetty and lifeboat facilities, and state-of-the-art simulated engine rooms have been built in three buildings on a 10-acre waterside campus.

But one of the college’s main attractions is the Norwegian-designed 360-degree bridge simulator.

On the bridge, students will use virtual reality to learn to pilot a selection of vessels into dozens of the world’s major harbours in realistic sea conditions. Lecturers will be able to programme weather hazards to test students’ abilities.

Degrees in marine engineering and nautical science are on this year’s curriculum, along with certificates in navigational studies and competency for professional seafarers.

Dr Murphy said this year’s CAO figures showed an increase in interest in marine courses at the NMCI.

“I expect that trend to continue,” he said.

The Ringaskiddy site was first earmarked as a maritime college site when the Department of Defence acquired the reclaimed land in 1993.

The Department of Education and Science advertised the Public Private Partnership (PPP) project in April 2001.

Yesterday, Bovis Land Lease country director Iain Salley said his company had delivered the project on time and within budget.

“It is the biggest project we have worked on in this country. It has been a great experience,” he said.

Dr Murphy was excited by Minister for Education Mary Hanafin’s remarks the CIT’s other PPP project, the €60 million Cork School of Music, would also be delivered.

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