NORTH-EAST maritime experts have been presented with the UK’s highest university or college award during a date with Royalty for ground-breaking work in advanced 3D modelling.

In a VIP ceremony at Buckingham Palace, representatives of South Shields Marine School received the Queen’s Anniversary Prize from the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

The award is high-level acknowledgment of the marine school’s skill in 3D digital modelling, a field of expertise in which it is unique in the UK and a key player worldwide.

The marine school has the country’s only facility that can create high-tech simulations of under and above water scenarios that allow naval architects to design and safely implement multi-million-pound real-world projects.

The award applied specifically to work supporting Tengizchevroil (TCO), Kazakhstan’s state oil company, to develop a port and waterway on the Caspian Sea to serve the expansion of the giant Tenzig oilfield.

Award judges also learnt of another stand-out success – the creation of computer simulations that ensured Britain’s two new aircraft carriers safely reached the North Sea from their berth on the Firth of Forth in 2017.

John Roach, principal of South Shields Marine School, said: “Gaining this award is truly a landmark moment in our already exceptional history of high achievement.

“We are known throughout the world for the outstanding training we deliver to Merchant Navy mariners, but few people will be aware until now of our expertise in the highly important field of 3D modelling.

“This is a cutting edge specialism, developed over many years through a desire to excel in broader maritime arenas, and it means the UK is strongly represented in this highly important area of expertise.

“An incredible amount of highly skilled work has gone on over many years to achieve this fantastic level of national, and possibly even international, recognition.

“Being presented with this award is a wonderful achievement and something of which everyone at South Shields Marine School is intensely proud.”

The Queen’s Anniversary Prize is awarded to colleges and universities for work judged to deliver real benefit to the wider world and public through education and training.

Sir Damon Buffini, Chairman of The Royal Anniversary Trust, said: “The Prizes are granted every two years by The Queen and are the most prestigious national honour awarded to UK universities and colleges for their work.

“Entries in the scheme are invited in any subject area and are subjected to rigorous independent assessment in a process managed by the Royal Anniversary Trust. Recommendations for the Queen’s approval are made on the prime minister’s advice.

“The criteria are demanding and look for outstanding excellence in the chosen field, for innovation and for evidence of real public benefit.

“Competition is strong and the award is a mark of high quality in education and training which is widely recognised internationally as well as in the UK.”

The marine school’s 3D modelling expertise means the UK is strongly represented in an arena whose importance is increasingly being recognised by shipping companies and associated bodies.

This in turn is strengthening the country’s position in a sector with high levels of potential for further growth and global prestige.

For the Caspian Sea project, the marine school created modelling that allowed TCO to build modules for its production plant off site and transport them into the Caspian Sea from the Black Sea via Russian waterways.

To get to Tenzig, the modules were transported on barges up to 110m-long and 25m-wide across part of the northern Caspian Sea where its waters are at their shallowest.

A navigable marine access channel, around 45 miles long but just 63m wide at bottom width and around 100m at surface, and at points just 4.8m deep, was created.

The marine school was able to highlight individual strands of the project that could be of concern, adding to overall planning success.