Maine Maritime Academy plans to open its continuing education annex on the former Verso Paper mill site in Bucksport next month and has hired a director for the facility.
The Center for Professional Mariner Development will open in mid-January unless renovations of the mill’s former training center are finished before then, with Director Alan Chace beginning work in February, school spokeswoman Jennifer DeJoy said.
All of Maine Maritime’s recertification classes for professional mariners will eventually move from the academy’s Castine campus to Bucksport. About 900 people — 400 Maine Maritime students and 500 maritime professionals — are expected to take classes at the center next year, which could be a boost to the town with visitors patronizing restaurants, hotels and other businesses. The number of professional sailors seeking recertification is expected to climb to 2,000 or so in five years, or about 50 merchant mariners a week for 50 weeks a year.
Chace comes to the academy with 27 years of academic and naval experience, most recently as a project manager and coordinator of professional development at Cape Cod Community College. Efforts to contact him were not immediately successful Friday.
The center opening comes despite the lack of a firefighting training center. Construction of the simulator, which is modeled after the interior of a ship, will begin in spring 2020, DeJoy said. Until then, students will continue to use a fire training ground in Ellsworth.