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JIS News

On September 15, 1980, the Jamaica Maritime Training Institute, now the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI), opened its doors to 16 young persons, all eager to pursue training in and embark on a career in the maritime industry.
Located then on Norman Road, in the vicinity of the Central Sorting Office, the institution was established, through a joint project by the governments of Jamaica and Norway, as a tertiary institution specialising in maritime education and training for professional seafarers and allied industry personnel.
At the time, the institute’s main objective was to train a cadre of young people to supply the Jamaican merchant marines – a shipping fleet of four, owned by the Jamaican Government – with young officers.
By the time science lecturer Wayne Williams started teaching at the institute in 1983, the student population had grown marginally to 26 students, 13 pursuing the marine engineering discipline and 13 pursuing naval-ordered nautical training.
“There were, at that time, mainly male students. In the initial batch we had only two females – one who was a deck officer and the other was a marine engineer. It was a very small institution providing specialised and highly technical training,” he tells JIS News.
In 1985, the school was moved to its present location at Palisadoes Park, flanked by the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club on one side and the Gun Boat Beach on the other. Then, the student body started to multiply, the academic staff grew and the school’s curriculum ‘mushroomed’ to include new Ratings programmes for lower level entrants in the shipping industry. The institute also partnered with the HEART Trust/NTA to provide training for the multi-purpose rating programmes in the early 1990s.
“We then started to branch off to give allied training for persons in the maritime industry who are not going to go to sea, or who require skills relating to shipping and the business aspects of shipping. We ventured into that area through an alliance with Pacific Maritime Training Institute (PMTI), now a campus of the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) in Canada,” Mr. Williams remembers.
However, despite its best efforts, the institute was faced with a number of challenges.”In the initial stages, resources were not a problem, but the ability to place and get the cadets on board vessels to acquire ‘sea time’ on a timely basis was challenging,” Mr. Williams tells JIS News.
Continuing, Mr. Williams, who is now the Director of Administration and Finance notes that another challenge, which the organisation faced in the early days, was “finding competent persons to join the staff as lecturers”.
“We did not have qualified seafarers who would be able to join the staff of the institute as experienced persons in the shipping industry, so initially the Norwegians had to get these trained personnel through a counterpart system. We selected students in whom we saw potential (and), accelerated their sea services training so that they could join the staff upon completion of their certification,” he informs.
Lieutenant Commander Michael Rodriguez, who joined the Jamaica Maritime Training Institute in 1990 as the first Jamaican Executive Director, also remembers the early days.
At that time there were 64 registered students and the institute was catering primarily to the professional seafaring group of deck officers (responsible for navigation, loading ships and safety) and marine engineers.
“At that time, we were training from Cadets up to Master Mariners and Chief Engineers at the Class 1 Certificate of Competency level,” explains the Commander.
While the professional marine programmes were the core areas in the maritime institute’s curriculum, other subject areas were developed to provide qualified and certified persons for the land-based shipping industry.
In 1992, the Multipurpose Rating Course, which is offered in collaboration with the HEART Trust/NTA, was added to the school’s syllabus.
“Those enrolled in that course currently go through a five-month programme, where they have both the discipline of steering the ship (and), cleaning the ship – what we call ship husbandry – which is chipping and painting (and) use of power tools.and also basic engineering in terms of welding and basic diesel engine principles,” the Executive Director tells JIS News.
Two years later, the Diploma in International Shipping and Logistics was developed in collaboration with PMTI of the British Colombia Institute of Technology, located in Vancouver, Canada.
Then, in 1996, the Associate of Applied Science Degree in Industrial Systems, Operations and Maintenance was introduced in collaboration with the University of Technology (UTech) in Jamaica. This course of study is geared toward the land-based industry with the maritime interface such as the ports and ships.
In addition, the institute’s curriculum was further broadened to include the Diploma programmes in Transport and Logistics, and Marine Engineering and the Certificate of Competency in Navigation and Marine Engineering for ship officers and a number of other specialized and customized courses for the shipping and allied industries.
On January 4, 1993, the Jamaica Maritime Training Institute became a statutory body under the laws of Jamaica, under the Jamaica Maritime Institute Act (1992). In 2001, the Institute was renamed the CMI.
According to Lt. Commander Rodriguez, the name change reflected the ‘regional character’ of the student population, and courses offered. It also facilitated expansion of the membership of the institute’s Board of Directors to include representatives from maritime and/or other trade associations across the region.As the CMI celebrates its 25th birthday on September 15 this year, a number of activities have been planned to commemorate this milestone.
In addition to road shows, which were held in Portland, St. James and St. Elizabeth, an awards ceremony is to be held on September 27 in collaboration with the Shipping Association of Jamaica, to which all past students and graduates are invited to attend. A special graduation ceremony will also be held on September 29 during which 192 students will graduate.
The road shows served as a marketing tool for the CMI, says Commander Rodriguez, as their main purpose was to generate public interest and attract “students and other persons who are looking for a career in the sector or a career change” in the shipping industry, whether it is to provide a land-based service or to become a professional seafarer.
“The road shows were also geared at the industry stakeholders, to make them aware of the various activities that the institute participates in, the kind of curriculum that we have, and that we provide custom services in terms of curriculum development for various industries,” Lt. Commander Rodriguez says.
Citing examples, the Executive Director points out that the CMI provides training for personnel in the bauxite industry among others, in the areas of safety, fire fighting, oil pollution response and first aid.
The general response to the road shows was encouraging, Commander Rodriguez notes, and the “very realistic and interactive” simulation exercises were a big hit. There was also particular interest in the institute’s training programmes for safety, navigation training (for Deck Officers and persons who want to go out to sea) and marine engineering.”Our Diploma in International Shipping and Logistics for the land-based industry is also in great demand…for instance, we currently have a group of over 40 persons at Garmex enrolled in the programme. We also have our programmes conducted at the Critchlow Labour College and Matpal Maritime Institute in Guyana and at the Montego Bay Community College,” he informs.
The institute aims to be the leading institution in the Caribbean devoted to the development of the maritime and allied industries, both locally and regionally, through the provision of quality maritime education and training. While there have been numerous challenges facing the CMI, Commander Rodriguez attributes the institution’s success to date, to the dedication of the faculty members, and their commitment to excellence.
“The challenges have been great, but we have a highly professional cadre of staff, who know what they are doing and get the job done. In addition, the institute has consistently met the international requirements, not only for staff qualifications and quality, but also for the quality of our programmes and the quality of our output,” says the Commander.Additionally, over the past few months, the CMI has been retooling. The University Council of Jamaica accredited two of its core programmes – the Diploma in International Shipping and Logistics, and the Associate of Applied Science Degree in Industrial Systems, Operations and Maintenance – and the institution itself is currently undergoing International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) certification for quality assurance.
The CMI is also undergoing a restructuring exercise, which involves not only a ‘flattening’ of the management structure from its pyramid shape, but also the fine-tuning of its output, in keeping with the new requirements of international Conventions and the shipping and allied sectors.
“We are doing the things that keep us on a path of improvement for the next 25 years, and expanding in the region, providing all the services that the shipping industry would like us to provide. The shipping industry is very dynamic and so the institute, as part of the industry, has to maintain that presence and try to be at least one step ahead. We’ll watch where the trends are going and then we provide the services required by the industry,” Commander Rodriguez asserts.
The CMI, with a current enrollment of 394, provides professional maritime education and training to seafarers, the regional shipping industry, coast guards, maritime administrations and allied industries. It has linkages with the University of the West Indies (UWI), UTech and the University Council of Jamaica, as well as close relationships with the World Maritime Institute, the British Columbia Institute of Technology and the Norwegian Shipping Academy.