Work could begin in the summer on a £25m maritime training, research and business incubation hub on the banks of the Mersey.
Industry body Mersey Maritime is leading the Maritime Knowledge Hub project in Wirral Waters with strategic partners Liverpool John Moores University, Wirral Council and Peel Group.
Focused on Liverpool city region’s £4bn maritime sector, the facility will provide up to 60,000 sq ft of new incubation space, teaching, research and development, training, commercial and cultural space. It will also be the home for an Offshore Survival Training Centre.
It could also play a key role in Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram’s plan for a £3.5bn barrage across the Mersey which he claims could provide power for 200,000 homes.
Location for the hub will be a Grade II-listed Victorian hydraulic tower in Wirral’s docklands. The building is a a copy of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. It suffered bomb damage in World War II and is now derelict and unused.
Mersey Maritime has submitted a bid to the EU’s European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) to fund the project and a decision is expected within weeks with work starting in the summer with completion expected by 2020.
And the scheme is currently out to architectural competition, with world class architects putting forward a range of innovative designs.
Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of Mersey Maritime, said: “This will be a real game-changer, not just for the maritime sector but for the whole city region economy.
“Out local maritime sector is an industry powerhouse, with recognised world-class expertise, and is now seen as the UK leader. We account for 13% of Merseyside’s annual GVA and employ more than 28,000 people.
“We can be in the vanguard of Britain’s post-Brexit push for a bigger slice of global trade. The Maritime Knowledge Hub will ensure we are at the forefront of innovation in technology, skills and business growth.”
After visiting the site, Metro Mayor Mr Rotheram, said: “Clusters of vocational training, academic excellence and industry are crucial to developing our key growth sectors.
“This international centre of excellence at Wirral Waters will help drive the development of the city region’s maritime sector and will support our ambition for large-scale tidal projects.”
The Wirral Waters site will also contain the MEA Park (Marine, Energy and Automotive Park) – a 1m sq ft waterside manufacturing, logistics, R&D and assembly campus.
Richard Mawdsley, director of development at Peel Land and Property, added: “The Maritime Knowledge Hub is great example of what’s possible through true collaboration. Wirral Waters is more than just new buildings.
“It is about proper regeneration, and that means jobs. By investing in both skills and world class facilities, all focused on high value growth sectors such as maritime we can create good quality training and career opportunities.”
The Maritime Knowledge Hub project will be showcased at the Mersey Maritime Annual Awards at Liverpool FC on Thursday, March 8.