A NEW nautical group is being formed for the region, but members are in desperate need of a meeting place.
The Maritime Volunteer Service (MVS) has more than 30 units across the country, training members in maritime skills that can be called upon by the community in emergencies.
It was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Volunteering Award – the equivalent of the MBE for voluntary groups – in recognition of its work, including marshalling duties at the Olympics and support during jubilee celebrations.
And an MVS Northumbria Unit started last summer already has members from across the North East.
It trains members in handling boats, seamanship, basic marine engineering and operational support skills, such as radio and telephone communications, but the unit is still in need of a permanent meeting place.
Member Keith Newman, of Ulgham, said: “We have people from Ridsdale, Gateshead, Ulgham and all over wanting to get involved and keen to join the MVS, but we have nowhere to meet so we are just getting together wherever we can at the moment, meeting in hotels and community centres. It is quite an urgent task for us to find somewhere.
“We are hoping that local councils will help. Anywhere would be suitable if it is near a river
“It doesn’t have to be the Tyne, it could be in Ashington or even Morpeth because we have got small boats as well. We just need somewhere that is suitable for people to meet.
“We also need somewhere to store our equipment.
“There is a company in Newcastle letting us use part of its warehouse to store boats at the moment, but we can’t stay there forever.”
Mr Newman said once it is fully operational the group will form a valuable part of the community.
“If we had been up and running during the floods we know we would have been able to benefit the community in some way, with our small boats and skills.
“That is what we want to do – we want to let people know we are here so if they need assistance when things go wrong they can contact us,” he said.
The new unit is also keen to recruit more members.
Head of Unit Nigel Campbell said: “Despite only starting the unit in the summer, we have a number of people involved and members right across the region, from Ridsdale to South Shields and Sunderland to Morpeth.
“As a uniformed organisation, the MVS has a real part to play in the community. We have a proud history, formed from the ashes of the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service, with a training programme second to none.
“We are already looking forward to operating a full training programme in 2013.
“I’d recommend anyone who is interested in boats and maritime activities to visit us. You don’t need any previous experience as our training programme takes all abilities into account.”
For more information about the group, or to offer a base, contact Mr Newman on 07814 397951.