San Jacinto College has broken ground along the Port of Houston for its new 45,000-square-foot Maritime Training Center.
At the site of 3700 Old Highway 146 in La Porte, stood student Dave Allen, taking in the view of concrete piers that will support San Jacinto College Maritime Training Center, a facility to prepare new mariners and serve as local training site. “This is going to prepare so many people for work in this industry,” said the San Jacinto College maritime student, who is on track for employment with a local maritime company and completes his second internship this year. “I am really impressed with the future plans they have for the facility and for the maritime program.”
Allen was one of many who attended the recent groundbreaking of the Maritime Training Center that was held to mark the beginning stages of construction of the future home of all maritime training at San Jacinto College.
San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer explained how the rapid growth of the College's maritime program over the course of four years has brought the program to this point of expansion.
"When we began envisioning what we wanted to see for our maritime training program, we knew we had to build a world-class facility," said Dr. Hellyer. Since 2010, the College has awarded approximately 3,200 U.S. Coast Guard-required certifications and developed the state's first associate degree maritime transportation program. In 2012, the College purchased 13 acres of land along the Port of Houston to begin the process of building the Maritime Training Center.
"We looked at a lot of different locations along the water, and we kept coming back to this property,” Dr. Hellyer added. “The Maritime Training Center was developed based on industry input and leadership, and will allow us to put in place the training areas that are required to make this program a success now and in the long term."
Maritime employment remains strong in Texas, as the state leads the nation in export tonnage and imports. Well over 1 million jobs are related to marine cargo activity at the Port of Houston and private terminals, according to a report by the Port of Houston Authority. Issues such as an aging workforce and expansion of the Panama Canal also drive the need to train and prepare more mariners for the industry.
The San Jacinto College Maritime Training Center, set for completion in approximately one year, will provide certificate, associate degree, and incumbent worker maritime training, and will include U.S. Coast Guard-required and approved deck and engineering coursework to prepare mariners for work commercial vessels, from deckhand on an inland towboat to captain of an oil tanker.
The building will sit 14 feet above ground. The ground level will showcase a training dock with lifeboats, davits, and fast rescue craft, and a separate industry dock for crew changes. This also will allow for vessel specific training for local maritime companies and will serve as an aquatic training facility for sea survival and life raft training, complete with men’s and women’s locker rooms.
There will be 15 classrooms; engineering simulators to train maritime engineers for hydraulic, electric, pump control, motor control, heating and air conditioning, and refrigeration; and a multipurpose space for industry conferences and corporate partner meetings.
"This is one of the greatest experiences that I've ever been a part of," said Rear Adm. William W. Pickavance, Jr., who serves as a consultant to the San Jacinto College maritime program. "Everyone has really come together to make this happen. This facility is going to make a big impact and help mariners stay competitive in a global industry. I believe it will become a center of excellence."
Highlights of the new facility include three full-mission ship bridge simulators, acquired from the Houston Pilots in 2013. These room-sized replicas of ship control bridges will become a part of a 3,748 square-foot simulation suite, complete with instructor stations, debrief classrooms, and development stations. A full-mission engine room simulator also is planned for the future and will interact and interconnect with the bridge simulators to allow vessel management exercises to accommodate deck and engineering officers and crew at the same time, in the same scenario.
"We're excited to be partners with San Jacinto College and to be on board with the Maritime Training Center," said Capt. Mike Morris, presiding officer of the Houston Pilots.
Tellepsen Builders serve as the general contractor for the development of the Maritime Training Center. Texas IBI Group is the architect; Brooks & Sparks is the civil engineer; and Rizzo & Associates is the program manager.