"I could not think of a better way to formally start the ‘Year of the Seafarer’ other than by commissioning a new training centre, such as the new branch of the Arab Academy in Port Said,” said IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos on Saturday, 9 January, as he formally opened an extension to the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AASTMT). The extension is on a new 77-acre site allocated for that purpose by the Governor of Port Said, who also officiated during the ceremony together with other senior officials of Egypt and Dr. Mohamed Farghaly, Director General of the AASTMT since October 2007.
This latest expansion of the Academy comes within the context of significant development in the City of Port Said, which has attracted a great deal of investment to the region. The Academy’s heavy involvement in devising the detailed plans for the port infrastructure, and the subsequent creation of some 250,000 new job opportunities in the maritime sector, has been acknowledged with the allocation of the site, within the City of Port Fouad.
Mitropoulos said this represented a fair reward for these efforts and a happy outcome for all concerned.
The AASTMT began operations at its headquarters in Alexandria in1972. Since its inception, the Academy has developed and maintained strong links with the United Nations system and, in particular, with IMO.
Contrary to global trends, in recent years the Academy has seen an increase in demand from students seeking to take advantage of the maritime navigation and marine engineering specializations it offers. As a result, the number of students at the College of Maritime Transport and Technology has increased from 400 students in 2005 to a remarkable 2800 students in 2009.
Every year since 2003, it has made available two scholarships for candidates from Africa, leading to the award of a Bachelor's degree in maritime navigation. In 2009, this was increased to 10 full scholarships enabling candidates from Africa to enrol in the Academy.
Moreover, from 2003 to 2008 the Academy made a welcomed financial contribution to the implementation of IMO’s Integrated Technical Co-operation Programme of US$10,000 annually. In July 2009, this contribution was extended to $100,000 for the 2010-2011 biennium.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the new branch in Port Said, Mitropoulos drew attention to the vital role that the Academy and other training establishments must play as shipping addresses its much-heralded labour supply problem.
“The opening, today, of this new facility will be welcomed not just in the Arab world but in the maritime industry as a whole. For it comes at a time when shipping is coming to grips with its long-predicted labour supply shortage – a shortage that may have been temporarily alleviated by the present downturn in global trade but which, nevertheless, remains ever-present. There is no doubt that shipping needs to re-launch itself as a career of choice for today’s young people, and modern, sophisticated training establishments such as this will be essential elements if that process is to succeed,” he said.
At its 102nd session last June, the IMO Council adopted “2010: Year of the Seafarer” as the theme for this year’s World Maritime Day. The theme was chosen to provide the maritime community with the opportunity to pay tribute to seafarers for their unique contribution to society and in recognition of the risks they shoulder in the execution of their duties in an often hostile environment. The selection of the theme will also add impetus to the ongoing “Go to Sea!” campaign, which was launched by IMO in November 2008, in association with the International Labour Organization, the “Round Table” of shipping industry associations and the International Transport Workers’ Federation, to attract new entrants to the sector.
While in Egypt, Mitropoulos also attended a ceremony in Cairo to honour Engineer Soliman Metwaly, the country’s former Minister of Transport, who was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in humanities by the AASTMT.