The University of Trinidad and Tobago has introduced a diploma in maritime operations to assist in filling the void which existed for local students wishing to pursue careers in the maritime industry. This course of study prepares students for a career as shipboard officers in either the navigation or engineering disciplines. Classroom theory, simulator-room teaching and mandatory sea training are all aspects of this programme, which has attracted the likes of Belgian-based shipping company, Exmar Shipmanagement.
The co-operation between UTT and Exmar began in 2006 when there was an identified need for extra officer recruitment sources due to the worldwide shortage of qualified seafarers, UTT stated in a release. Exmar had already established a local presence due to operating an ammonia and LNG fleet and expressed an interest in UTT’s maritime programmes and training resources. Exmar’s interest led to a cadet training agreement, signed on May 8, 2007, which enabled UTT cadets to enrol on the company’s vessels.
Since then, more than 60 deck and engine cadets have trained on the fleet and have performed creditably with overwhelmingly positive feedback from the ship’s staff, UTT stated: “The cadets have been credited with having good basic knowledge and seafaring skills; coupled with the right enthusiasm and motivation to carry out assigned tasks. The cadets are part of an eclectic cultural mix and are well able to adapt culturally and socially to life at sea. To date, there are 12 UTT graduates who have joined Exmar’s fleet as watchkeeping officers,” UTT said.
As the Maritime Authority of T&T was not yet approved to issue STCW certificates of competency, examination and professional certificates were initially carried out through the Maritime Authority of Jamaica.
The UTT said that since June 2010, the programmes and facilities of the Chaguaramas campus have been audited and approved by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency of the United Kingdom (MCA). That body will now issue professional certificates. The facilities of the University’s Chaguaramas Campus have been visited several times by representatives of Exmar Shipmanagement and, on one occasion, by the Principal of the Antwerp Maritime Academy. They have all expressed favour with the facilities at the Campus and have been impressed, not only by the infrastructure, but also by the quality of teaching which is ably led by Prof Colin Stevenson, programme professor, maritime studies.