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Summer Camp Drives Interest In Dynamic Maritime Sector

Maritime Campers learned survival swimming techniques.

July 2010

When 16-year-old Chantal Adderley completes her Bachelor of Science degree in Maritime Transportation from Maine Maritime Academy in another four years, she will be one of few qualified Bahamians making a professional beeline for a dynamic industry.

The seed for Chantal's passion about the maritime sector was planted when her family went on a cruise in August 2008 aboard the Carnival Legend. She was in awe of the mechanics that propelled the floating giant and almost immediately made a personal vow to join the international shipping sector.

"I just love this industry," said Chantal, a Bahamas Maritime Cadet Corp alumnus.

Since then, almost every decision about her professional future has been calculated to move her closer to her dream. It is a dream that maritime officials and scholars hope that many more Bahamians will share someday soon and they are working to change the tide in their favour. The College of The Bahamas Maritime Summer Camp, supported by the Bahamas Maritime Authority and shipping giant Campbell's Shipping is a strategic tool in their arsenal of initiatives.

"After several discussions with the Minister of Environment, representatives from Campbell Shipping and the Bahamas Maritime Authority, it was determined that students are not really aware of the opportunities available in the shipping industry," shared Dr. Brendamae Cleare, Dean of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences at The College. "We thought it was incumbent of the times to have Bahamians as seafarers."

Campbell's Shipping was just as eager to strategically support the effort. The camp, which targets 8th and 9th graders, is now in its second year, and with over 100 students completing the summer programme, it is a growing success. Each student represents another young Bahamian gaining intimate knowledge of the professional opportunities available in the maritime sector and a potential ally in spreading the word about their knowledge.

The international shipping industry employs some 1.25 million seafarers, thousands of whom are attached to vessels that sail under The Bahamas flag, yet the number of Bahamians who choose a profession in this sector is negligible.

"Our industry is invisible, no one sees it, but it is huge and old. The ordinary person does not see the shipping industry," admitted Dudley Martinborough, Bahamas Maritime Authority Coordinator of The Bahamas Maritime Cadet Corps. The corp is another avenue that Mr. Martinborough and his colleagues are using to stimulate interest in the maritime industry.

According to Mr. Martinborough, while The Bahamas has the third largest ship registry in the world with over 1,700 registered vessels, Bahamians are not capitalizing on the tremendous opportunities available.

"They must be trained at an early age. We think it is important to show young adults that this industry does exist and that there are many careers readily accessible even more than the traditional jobs of becoming a doctor or a lawyer," he said.

Students were taught Mathematics, Geography, the sciences and First Aid.

The College's Maritime Summer Camp provides that training. Students were taught Mathematics, Geography, the sciences and first aid and went on field trips to enhance their practical knowledge. They were specifically familiarised with career specialties including marine transportation, marine science, marine engineering and master mariner.

The summer camp offers the kind of invaluable exposure that could lead to better trained seafaring recruits. Campbell Shipping's Manning Manager Jamal Smith admits that finding Bahamians with the appropriate skills for the maritime sector proved to be a challenge in the past.

"Through the recruitment process of young Bahamians for employment on our onboard vessels, Campbell [Shipping] found that certain basic skills were lacking by Bahamians compared to foreign counterparts," he shared. "After some research, we discovered that students needed an earlier period of time to be sensitized to certain key subject areas. The Maritime Summer Camp is an ideal filter system in which to garner interest in the students at an earlier stage so they can follow a career path and include these subjects."

Echoing the sentiment of many of his colleagues, Mr. Smith said it all starts with strengthening the foundation for the future of the industry.

"The Bahamas needs to engage itself by offering additional training to these young persons and utilize the skills and talents of the more seasoned seafarers to transfer the knowledge down stream to the younger persons," he said. "In addition, the government also needs to use its resources to research and see how we can position ourselves to compete in this worldwide market that is readily available."

Strongly committed to its mission of supporting national development, The College of The Bahamas is planning to launch its very own degree in the maritime studies. The prospective programme would be a flagship offering of the Northern Bahamas Campus and a natural fit considering the dominant position that The Bahamas holds in the international shipping sector. The College has collaborated with several universities including The State University of New York and Holland College in Canada on a potential partnership.

Offering the programme locally would give students in The Bahamas the opportunity to acquire their academic training on home soil, an advantage that could further increase the numbers of qualified Bahamians in the industry.

In the interim, aspiring seafarers like Chantal are content to follow their dreams wherever it might take them: "I plan to be the first Bahamian student to graduate from Maine Maritime Academy. I am here to tell you that you can reach for your goals and I am grateful for the opportunity. When I grow up, I plan to drive cruise ships and become one of the few Bahamian pilots and captains in the world.

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