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November 14, 2018

Maine Maritime Academy acquiring land at former Verso mill site in Bucksport

Courtesy / Maine Maritime Academy
Courtesy / Maine Maritime Academy
Maine Maritime Academy President Willliam Brennan announced this week that the Castine-based engineering school has signed a purchase-and-sale agreement to acquire a six-acre parcel of land at the former Verso paper mill site in Bucksport to locate the college's new Center for Professional Mariner Development.
Courtesy / Maine Maritime Academy
A rendering of the firefighting training facility to be built at the Maine Maritime Academy's Center for Professional Mariner Development that's being planned for Bucksport.

Maine Maritime Academy in Castine has signed a purchase-and-sale agreement to acquire a six-acre parcel of land at the former Verso paper mill site in Bucksport to locate the college's new Center for Professional Mariner Development.

The agreement — with American Iron and Metal, owners of the property — is expected to be finalized following a 60-day due-diligence period, after which a closing date will be determined, according to a Nov. 13 MMA news release.

The center is planned to provide state-of-the-art training for undergraduate students, professional mariners and workforce development. For professional mariners, the center will meet the demand for highly specialized courses that enable mariners to receive certification and credentialing to meet maritime regulatory and industry-sector demands. The center will be a public-private venture.

The new training facility will include classroom space, technology and equipment required for shipboard and land-based firefighting instruction. A state-of-the-art firefighting training facility for MMA undergraduate students is expected to be built and operational by fall 2019. MMA intends to extend this training to professional mariners with re-certification courses required by the U.S. Coast Guard and, ultimately, to municipal fire departments.

Additional course offerings through the Center for Professional Mariner Development will include (partial list): basic safety training; advanced firefighting; lifeboatman; fast rescue boat; electronic chart display information systems (ECDIS); RADAR; high voltage; helicopter underwater egress training (HUET); vessel personnel with designated security duties; vessel security officer; inert gas system/crude oil wash; qualified assessor; crowd control; crisis management; chief mate/master upgrades; and designated person ashore (DPA).

"Maine Maritime Academy's new Center for Professional Mariner Development will be an auxiliary enterprise, the revenue from which will support the college's mission and programs," William Brennan, president of the academy, said in the release. "A phased approach will ensure that we can steward the finite resources MMA has to devote to the enterprise while simultaneously cultivating private funding."

The school first announced its interest in establishing a safety and offshore survival institute at the site in April 2016, but the deal foundered, Bangor Daily News reported. The center is expected to serve 2,400 MMA students and professional mariners at full buildout.

Maine Maritime Academy is a co-educational, public college offering programs of study in engineering, management, science and transportation. The college serves approximately 950 undergraduate and graduate students in career-oriented degree programs. The job placement rate for MMA graduates exceeds 90% within 90 days of graduation.

Also planning operations at the former Verso site is Whole Oceans. The Portland company plans to build one of the world's largest land-based Atlantic salmon farms on 108 acres. In October, Bucksport Town Manager Susan Lessard told Mainebiz the town welcomes the projects for the industrial site, adding that the mill's closure resulted in the loss of 40% of the municipality's valuation and significant loss of jobs.

Verso Paper completed its $60 million sale of its shuttered Bucksport mill to Canadian scrap metal company American Iron & Metal in February 2015. The mill was shut down by Verso in December 2014, laying off more than 500 employees. At the time, Verso CEO and President Dave Patterson said the mill "has not been profitable for a number of years, in spite of our employees' dedicated efforts to make it so."

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