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Education / New chapter for NAFC Marine Centre as merged college prepares to launch

The NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway, one of the colleges earmarked to merge into one organisation. Photo: Shetland News
The NAFC Marine Centre UHI. Photo: Shetland News

THE SCALLOWAY based NAFC Marine Centre will formally become part of the new merged Shetland UHI college on Sunday (1 August) after 30 years of serving the isles’ fishing, aquaculture and maritime industries.

The move marks one of the final stages of the long-proposed merger of NAFC with Shetland College and Train Shetland under the UHI umbrella.

“As we move onto a new chapter in the history of this wonderful institution, I want to take the opportunity to thank all staff and trustees, past and present, for their outstanding contributions over the years,” said the NAFC’s last principal Willie Shannon.

“The NAFC has delivered, and under the new arrangements will continue to deliver vocational training from school age through to degree qualification, plus research at doctoral level, all applied and connected to the marine environment.

“This is fitting in Shetland where the marine economy underpins and is the biggest contributor to the local economy.

“There is a drive and dynamism in the Shetland fishing and seafood industries and at NAFC and I can say without equivocation that the calibre of staff across the board is of the highest order.”

The history of the fisheries college stems back to 1992.

Originally named North Atlantic Fisheries College, the Port Arthur facility came to be following the establishment of the charity Shetland Fisheries Training Centre Trust – which operates the centre – in 1988.

It became a founder-partner in the UHI Millennium Institute, the project to establish a University of the Highlands and Islands, and underwent a major expansion in the late 1990s, including the construction of a marine hatchery.

Port Arthur House was then opened in 2000 to provide self-catering accommodation for up to 30 students, followed in 2001 by the John Goodlad Centre which allowed for an expansion in marine science activities, both teaching and research, and provided classrooms, laboratories, offices and a new library, which is open to the public.

To meet growing demand for marine training, within and outwith Shetland, a merchant navy cadet programme was introduced in 2004 to provide training for prospective engineer and deck officers.

More than 75 per cent of Scotland’s aquaculture training needs are now delivered by the NAFC and online professional development is available to international customers.

Recent years have seen record numbers of students and as the last dedicated fisheries college NAFC now delivers a range of 150-plus courses in the maritime sector.

Outgoing board chair Irene Hambleton said: “While it does feel like the end of an era, there is excitement about the potential for new opportunities as Shetland UHI begins its own journey.

“NAFC Marine Centre is not the same organisation it was 30 years ago. It has adapted and changed as opportunities came along and industry requirements evolved. Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change, and the next 30 years will be no different.

“On behalf of the board, thank you to everyone who has been involved with NAFC Marine Centre, from inception through to the present day.”

The merger will see the three facilities remain in their present buildings, but they will work together under the same organisation.

It has been mooted for many years, and the vesting date – when the merger will go through – has been delayed.

The existing NAFC and Shetland College boards will “dissolve” and transfer their assets and staff to the new entity.