Maine Maritime Academy is one step closer to opening a training center on a portion of the former Verso Paper mill site.

On Monday, April 16, MMA received permit approval for its site plan from the Bucksport Planning Board at a special meeting.

The college, which is based in nearby Castine, signed a purchase-and-sale agreement in November 2018 with American Iron & Metal, the new owners of the mill, for a 6-acre parcel of land.

AIM, a Canadian metal recycling company, bought the recently shuttered mill in 2015. The previous year, Verso shut down its Bucksport paper-making operation and laid off more than 500 workers.

According to Bucksport Town Manager Susan Lessard, it is anticipated the college will close on the property in the next few weeks.

The Center for Professional Mariner Development in Bucksport will house the MMA's continuing education department and provide training for undergraduate students, professional mariners and workforce development. The facility will include classroom space, technology and equipment required for shipboard and land-based firefighting instruction.

MMA will extend this training to professional mariners with re-certification courses required by the U.S. Coast Guard, and, ultimately, to municipal fire departments, according to information posted on the college's website. A state-of-the-art firefighting training facility for undergraduate students is expected to be built by fall of 2019.

According to Jennifer DeJoy, director of college relations, course offerings will include Basic Safety Training, Advanced Firefighting, Lifeboatman, Fast Rescue Boat, Electronic Chart Display Information Systems, RADAR, High Voltage, Helicopter Underwater Egress Training, 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.