May 22 is National Maritime Day, an observance to recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by America's Merchant Marine. However, it is also a time to reflect on a growing industry that is facing needs for highly-skilled mariners.
The total value of marine freight is estimated to increase by 43 percent domestically and 67 percent internationally by 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Maritime Administration. At the same time, it is predicted that increased consumer demand for liquid natural gas (LNG) and oil will require newly-skilled mariners, new vessels, and expanded terminal infrastructure. Employment of U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) licensed mariners will help to alleviate the growing worldwide shortage that is confronting the international LNG shipping industry.
"The industry is certainly facing a shortage, with an aging workforce and the need for more USCG licensed maritime professionals," said Capt. Mitch Schacter, director of the San Jacinto College maritime program. "What we aim to do is introduce more workers to maritime, while also helping current mariners to move up their career ladders in the industry."
Since 2010, San Jacinto College has awarded approximately 1,800 certificates for USCG-approved training to members of the local maritime industry. Schacter said the top five popular USCG-required courses offered are Basic Safety Training, Tankerman PIC (Person in Charge), RADAR Unlimited, Proficiency in Survival Craft (Lifeboat), and Apprentice Mate - Steersman.
"Maritime professionals are constantly needing to keep their USCG certifications and licenses up-to-date by regulation, in order to keep current with new technology and new maritime policy, procedure and law," said Schacter. "With our maritime program, we're helping them to do so by offering a wide range of courses locally, saving them and their companies time and money, and working with industry partners to offer exactly the training that's needed to provide a highly-skilled vessel crew."
The College has also answered industry's call for "more well-rounded, advanced entry-level mariners" with the development of an Associate of Applied Science in Maritime Technology.
"Up until this time, industry has had only one of two choices in hiring – the recent high school graduate and the federal maritime academy graduate," said Schacter. "Local maritime companies have been looking for a solution to this situation for years. The new associate degree program here the San Jacinto College was designed with input and guidance from the companies to provide them with the workforce they need."
The College also offers an Associate of Applied Science in International Business, Maritime and Logistics, with partnerships with Texas Southern University and the University of Houston to allow graduates opportunities to pursue bachelor’s degrees in maritime logistics. Students may also pursue maritime administration through an articulation agreement with Texas A&M University at Galveston, following successful completion of a ships and shipping course and associate degree in business administration.
Course options, and simulation training, will increase once the College opens a new maritime facility on 13 acres along the Port of Houston in the coming years. Currently, mariners train at the San Jacinto College Maritime and Technical Training Center, equipped with the simulators Liquid Natural Gas (LGN) Transfer, RADAR, CargoMax, Electronic Chart Display Information System, Automatic Radar Plotting Aid, Liquid Cargo Transfer, and a Global Maritime Distress and Safety System.