After several years without a marine emergency duties training facility in Ontario, Georgian College and its partners will offer this critical training in Owen Sound. Mariners will no longer need to travel to the Canadian east or west coasts to obtain this mandatory certification.

On November 6, Georgian College President and CEO MaryLynn West-Moynes announced the college has reached its $7.5-million fundraising goal to build a Marine Emergency Duties Training and Research Centre attached to the college’s renowned Centre for Marine Training and Research. “Our students, alumni, industry and community partners all stand to benefit from this tremendous investment in exceptional facilities located right here in Grey County that will ensure the future success of the Great Lakes shipping industry,” said West-Moynes.

Algoma Central Corporation, which owns and operates the largest Canadian flag fleet of dry-bulk carriers and product tankers operating on the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Waterway, is contributing $1 million to the project. A long-time supporter of Georgian’s marine programs, the Marine Emergency Duties Training and Research Centre will be named in the company’s honour.

“Marine Emergency Duties training is critical to our industry and we are pleased to help make this training available in Ontario, where it has been absent since 2013,” said Ken Bloch Soerensen, President and CEO, Algoma Central Corporation. “Fleet renewal has been a priority for our company but it is equally important that we invest in training our current and future personnel to ensure our shipping operations flourish.”

The centre will be used by students (cadets) enrolled in Georgian’s marine programs and by working mariners. Courses will be offered in introductory and advanced firefighting, survival craft, life raft and immersion suit training, as well as first aid.

Captain Scott Bravener, President of Lower Lakes Towing and Grand River Navigation, is well acquainted with marine training at Georgian College as an alumnus of the Marine Technology – Navigation program. On behalf of the company that he co-founded with fellow Georgian alumni, Bravener announced Lower Lakes Towing will contribute $500,000 towards the development of the centre.

“The addition of this centre at Georgian’s Owen Sound Campus ensures shipping companies have a one-stop shop for quality marine programs and training in Ontario. I am proud to be able to return to my college and participate in this important project that will address our industry’s needs today and into the future,” said Bravener. The common area in the centre will be named in recognition of Lower Lakes Towing.

In June 2014, Grey County council was the first to pledge financial support, in the amount of $2 million, recognizing in part the significant economic development importance to the region. It is estimated visits by marine personnel could generate a substantial $5 million in spending in Owen Sound and the surrounding area each year.

“Being part of this project just made sense to county council, as our residents will benefit from the increased economic activity the students and mariners will bring to the region, as well as enhance our reputation as the home of the marine training centre of excellence in Ontario,” said Warden Kevin Eccles.

The Marine Emergency Duties Training and Research Centre has also received funding from the federal and provincial governments through the New Building Canada Fund – Small Communities Fund. An announcement was held at the Owen Sound Campus in June.

Georgian President and CEO MaryLynn West-Moynes said the new centre is the result of a truly collaborative effort. “We wouldn’t be building this facility if it weren’t for the generous support of Algoma Central Corporation, Lower Lakes Towing, Grey County and the federal and provincial governments. We have come together and we are in the process of building the most sophisticated marine emergency training facility in the country, right here in Owen Sound,” she said.

Construction on the centre has started and it, along with the lifeboat simulator, is scheduled to be complete by September 2016. The adjacent fire training facility is already open. Jason Davenport, Manager of the Centre for Marine Training and Research, says demand for this training is strong, both to catch up from the backlog since the Port Colborne site closed in 2013, as well as to prepare for the increase in mariner jobs in the next decade primarily due to retirements. “Since September, we have seen more than 300 cadets and mariners complete marine emergency duty courses and we are booked well into the new year,” Davenport said.

All components of marine training will be offered at Georgian College’s Owen Sound Campus once the Marine Emergency Duties Training and Research Centre is opened in 2016. This will also include a new Marine Engineering Management graduate certificate for working professionals.