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Seafarers and other professionals requiring expertise to escape safely from enclosed spaces in an emergency can now turn to world-class training at a new facility in South Tyneside. The Marine and Offshore Safety Training Centre’s (MOST) two-storey enclosed spaces building provides a state-of-the-art environment for learning how to avoid injury or loss of life in dangerous environments.

Instructors teach the techniques needed prior to entering an area which may have an oxygen deprived or toxic atmosphere and also the risks to consider before a rescue or escape is attempted.

The centre, operated by South Shields Marine School, has been built in response to a significant number of accidents in the Merchant Navy caused by a lack of awareness of the hazards of entering enclosed spaces on board ships.

Although South Shields Marine School is a world-leader in training cadets for a life at sea, the training centre at MOST will also support people working in enclosed spaces on land.

The facility will undertake courses approved by national awarding bodies to ensure all personnel entering enclosed or confined spaces can be trained to the highest standard.

It was officially opened by Kevin Slade, chairman of the Merchant Navy Training Board. Gary Hindmarch, Principal of South Shields Marine School, said: “There is a continual need for enclosed spaces training in the Merchant Navy, and we have responded to that. “Figures show that up to 50 per cent of people killed in an enclosed space are the rescuers themselves. We want to show people how difficult it is to enter an enclosed space to undertake a rescue and to ensure they have the right training to do so. “This is a wonderful new facility and adds to the comprehensive training already given at the Marine and Offshore Safety Training Centre.”

MOST began enclosed spaces training for seafarers about 10 years ago in an existing fire building at its base by the Tyne in Wapping Street, South Shields. That building is designed primarily to teach people how to safely tackle a fire on a ship, and blazes can be set to individual training requirements.

The scope of instruction was widened three years ago to include all marine school cadets undergoing their first phase training, a position since formalised by the MNTB. But accidents on Merchant Navy vessels highlighted the critical nature of enclosed spaces training and the potentially life-saving benefits of better instruction. It followed reports of people being injured or killed escaping a fire or in trying to save life. Plans for a bespoke building hit the drawing board in mid-2015, along with those for a second on-site fire training building.

Mr Slade said: “I believe the UK is the world leader in safety training, and it’s great that South Shields Marine School is investing in this specialist training to this very high standard. “Cadets are the ambassadors who will be on ships, possibly with people of many nationalities, and the skills needed in enclosed spaces are very important. “What they learn here can prove very important throughout their careers.” Training at the centre is being carried out by Impeller, run by the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

John Baines, Executive Chairman of Impeller, said: “We welcome this exciting opportunity for Impeller to deliver high quality training for the marine and offshore industry in partnership with South Tyneside College at these first class facilities.”

Those entering the enclosed spaces building can be set a number of scenarios, with various light settings available – including pitch black – and can be required to wear breathing apparatus. They will usually navigate their way its split level ground floor and seek access through a tunnel or ladder, with the roof also accessible.

Training sessions can be for up to 20 people and are split between theory and practical sessions and takes about seven hours.

More information on training available at MOST is available by calling 0191 427 3772 or emailing

Top Image – Kevin Slade, chairman of the Merchant Navy Training Board, officially opens the Marine and Offshore Safety Training Centre’s new enclosed spaces building, watched by, from left, Jeremy Gough, Head of Marine Simulation and Senior Marine at South Shields Marine School, Shaun Makin, Station Manager with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Michael Speers, Head of School, Marine and Offshore Safety Training Centre, and South Shields Marine School cadets.