New center to train for counter-terrorism, offshore survival

By on March 11, 2019

The center’s 1.4 million-gallon pool features a small cargo ship and a simulated wind tower reaching 30 feet above the waterline. (BEI Maritime)

The co-founder of a company planning to build a maritime training center at Currituck County’s Maple Park doesn’t doubt that offshore wind energy is coming to the East Coast.

“I know for a fact it is,” said Scott Chierepko of BEI Maritime, which is planning a projected $25 million training facility on 25 acres next to the Currituck County Airport.

Chierepko said he’s met with the president of the North American Iron Workers Union, which recently completed the East Coast’s first offshore wind farm at Block Island in Rhode Island.

“They were very challenged in getting qualified union workers to embark on the ship to conduct the installation,” he said.

BEI Maritime hopes to fill that gap.

About half of the new facility’s operations will be devoted to contracts with the Department of Defense for training in counter-terrorism and anti-piracy, and half will focus on offshore survival training and offshore safety, Chierepko said.

Plans for the center include a 1.4 million-gallon indoor pool, which will be equipped with a 110-foot, three-story, live-fire cargo ship for defense training, along with a simulated off-shore wind tower for offshore safety and survival training.

The 12-foot diameter tower will reach 30 feet above the surface of the pool, to meet the Global Wind Organization-regulated safety training requirements, Chierepko said.

The BEI facility will be the only one in the world with a scaled, actual wind tower, he added. To become certified by the GWO, technicians must complete five training modules, but only four of those courses are available in the U.S.

The fifth, basic safety training, will be provided by BEI once the facility is complete.

In addition to the president of the Iron Workers Union, Chierepko said he’s also met with representatives of Orstead, a Danish wind farm developer that has built wind farms in Denmark, France, Germany and the U.K.

The company developed the 5-turbine offshore wind farm near Block Island, Rhode Island, the first commercial offshore wind farm in the United States. Orstead recently bought out the majority of U.S. developers for offshore wind, Chierepko said.

“They’re seeking a one-stop shop for all of their training needs,” Chierepko said. The training center will be equipped to meet those needs, he added.

BEI Maritime’s mission is to provide “a harsh maritime training environment, in a controlled indoor facility,” according to the company’s website.

That harsh maritime environment will include simulated 8-foot waves, up to 50-knot winds, rain, fog, lighting and loud maritime sound effects.

Chierepko said the company considered sites in Currituck, Chesapeake, Norfolk and Virginia Beach before choosing the property in Maple.

“We’ve been working with them for a year, a year and a half,” said Larry Lombardi, Currituck County’s economic development director. “It was a competitive deal.”

BEI Maritime first looked at Currituck Station, and then Maple Commerce Park, which has infrastructure in place and is “shovel-ready,” Lombardi said. Its close proximity to the airport, along with Currituck County’s relatively low property tax rate, helped seal the deal.

Chierepko said the target date for opening the training facility is late summer of 2021.

“We’re in investment talks with investors now,” Chierepko said. “They’ve given us a little homework, but we expect to receive funding in 90 days.”

Once funding is in place, the company will begin drawing up site plans and seeking permits and final approval from the county.

The center will be the first business to locate in Maple Commerce Park, which was developed a decade ago on land adjacent to the Currituck County Airport and what is now College of the Albemarle’s Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center.

Plans for the BEI Maritime campus will include an 80-room hotel, a restaurant or cafeteria, and classroom space to accommodate the center’s guests and trainees, according to the company’s website.

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@John. I’m with you on that. Keeping jobs in the area is a good thing. Keep the cash in Currituck! I bet more businesses will spin off the training base. Time for another martini! Koo Flocks, sailing into the future.

John

Great example of the sort of jobs created as spin-off’s from solar and wind. Glad they chose Currituck.