The directors and staff of Fire Aid were delighted and honoured that their local Member of Parliament, the Rt Hon Dr Julian Lewis, MP for the New Forest East constituency, agreed to take part in the opening of the Solent Marine Safety Academy, a joint project between Fire Aid and MRS Training and Rescue.

Dr Lewis unveiled a plaque on the purpose-built training facility naming it the TV Northway Star in memory of Pat Northway. Pat had helped considerably with the construction of Fire Aid’s previous training centre at Sopley and was looking forward to building the new Hythe facility when he sadly passed away suddenly at the start of the project. He is greatly missed.

The MP said that he never thought that facilities such as the Academy would ever be available in his constituency and he wished everyone, staff and students, the best of luck in making it a great success.

He said:

“This is a wonderful opportunity to help unveil this magnificent academy that will give students and sailors the best possible education into safety at sea. I never dreamt that facilities such as these would be in the New Forest east and it’s a moment of pride for us.”

The official opening ceremony, performed by Mr Steve Clinch, Head of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, was proceeded by a short voyage down Southampton Water from Town Quay aboard the Blue Funnel Cruises ship Ocean Scene during which there were various speeches including one by Fire Aid’s Training Director Chris Rowley.

Once they had arrived at the Hythe Marine Park floating pontoon, the fifty guests from many organisations, were invited to tour the premises but the first task was for Mr Clinch to cut the ribbon. More on the opening can be found on the news item entitled “Enclosed Space Entry Partnership Opens”.

Chris Rowley tried the traditional method of launching a ship with the smashing of a champagne bottle against the hull, but it proved rather stubborn and Sales and Marketing Director Caroline Rowley unscrewed the top before champagne was sprayed in ‘Formula 1” style.

As far as the Academy training ground was concerned, two of Fire Aid’s senior instructors, Terry Ash and Keith Allgood, were on hand to show the guests around the different sections whilst two more instructors, Paul Cambell and Ali Hicks, gave the guests an insight into the fire training methods, including some spectacular live fire demonstrations.