BRIEF HISTORY

Although there had been suggestions for a professional body for ship’s Masters and deck officers for many years, it was not until the late 1960s that there was sufficient momentum from seagoing staff and the Nautical Colleges, strongly encouraged by the Marine Society, to begin the process that would culminate in the formation of the Nautical Institute in 1971.
    
During 1969 there were meetings in Plymouth and Liverpool and, in November 1969, in South Shields at the then South Shields Marine and Technical College at which the formation of a professional body was discussed.  On  4th December, 1969, a meeting was called at the Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, Neville Hall, Newcastle, which was well supported by mariners and some shipping companies, together with the Board of Trade locally. There was a strong demand for a professional body to provide a focus for training and the professional development of mariners.
    
Although there were hurdles to be overcome, in some cases by obstructions created by vested interests, the evolution of the Nautical Institute had started and further meetings in London and also in Newcastle during 1970 made significant progress. The first North East local committee was voted in during February 1970, consisting of 7 seagoing and 6 shore based members.
    
The third general meeting in the North East took place on 10th February, 1971 with 70 supporters present and the speaker was Captain Malins, Secretary of the Marine Society who was a prime mover in getting the Nautical Institute started.  During that year there was much political wrangling about the formation of the organisation but in due course the name was fixed as ‘The Nautical Institute’ with the principal objective of promoting Nautical Science. On 26th November, 1971, the Constituting Committee met in London and set the date for the new Institute to come into being:   1st January 1972. 
    
The inaugural meeting of the North East Branch took place at the Guild Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne, on 20th January, 1972, and about 60 members attended to hear various presentations and to see the Branch get underway.
    
One of the first open meetings was a talk on marine insurance given by Mr W. L. Harrison of the North of England P & I Association – a harbinger of the long association which the Branch has had with the Club, particularly in the production of the Mariner’s Role in Collecting Evidence, a publication which has become an international best-selling publication over several editions and which has spawned the successful series of biennial Seminars held in November each even year. These seminars attract an international audience and continue to be hugely popular with mariners, marine lawyers and all those connected with efficient and safe maritime operations.
    
This first open meeting was held in the Newcastle upon Tyne Trinity House and this also proved to be the start of a close and enduring professional relationship which continues to the present, with the Branch being an Associate Member of Trinity House, with many of our meetings being held there in that most appropriate and unique of historical marine settings.
    
Close and continuing links are also maintained with South Tyneside College which has its own distinguished history in maritime education and training, spanning 150 years. This also extends to the regional Universities, through the Northumbrian URNU, based in HMS CALLIOPE. Professional links are also maintained with the local Joint Branch of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects and the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology.
    
The Branch operates as a Charitable Trust, using revenue generated from royalties on publications and the Seminars to support various charitable activities in the region. In 2005 the Branch chartered a sailing vessel to take part in the Tall Ships Race and six crews shared the various race legs. The crews were made up of various disadvantaged or disabled youngsters from the region plus Merchant Navy Cadets, URNU Midshipmen and Branch Members. This was particularly challenging for the Branch organisation but it was pulled off with great style and success, being honoured by a visit from The Princess Royal who made a particular point of meeting the team and the crews when she visited Newcastle and Gateshead at the time the Tall Ships were in the River Tyne.
    
The Branch continues to be very active in supporting and working with the Marine Society and Sea Cadets in the region; a fitting historical symmetry, given that one of the great supporters for the development of the Nautical Institute in the first place was the Marine Society in London.