By combining traditional syllabi and curricula with current information and events, Maritime Institute and Maritime Publishing are generating a fresh take on long-established training methods for future mariners.
SAN DIEGO— San Diego stands out along the California coastline for its rich maritime presence, which includes the port, maritime museums, U.S. Navy facilities, and endless opportunities to partake in waterfront events and education.
One of those educational opportunities is presented by the Maritime Institute. Established in 1976 and purchased by maritime enthusiast Dave Abrams in 2018, the school offers close to 150 Coast Guard, Navy, and Global Wind Organization-approved courses in all aspects of vessel operations, mostly focused on commercial mariners. Additionally, the institute has a program called “Boater U” for the recreational mariner. It provides classroom and on-the-water, hands-on training in vessel operations and maintenance. Some people use the school for knowledge only, but most are taking courses to pursue a career on the water.
Today, the institute has grown to become the go-to center for Captain’s License certification in California. However, the company offers a myriad of courses for mariners of all practices. Students have access to a “simulation room,” where they are assigned the traditional roles that are found on a crew and are put to the test based on a situation that might happen out at sea. The classroom, for instance, can mimic a ship in a heavy storm, and students are then responsible for fulfilling their duties as a crew member.
The courses offered are regionally specific to fit the needs of the institute’s current locations, including San Diego and Alameda in California, Norfolk, Va., and Honolulu, Hawaii. In addition, there are satellite training classrooms throughout California.
“The courses themselves are standardized,” said Abrams. “So, if we’re teaching a course in San Diego, we’re teaching that same course wherever else it’s offered. We don’t offer every course at all facilities because we tailor our courses based on the mariners in that region.”
For example, in Honolulu, courses focus on the local industry’s job requirements – typically small vessels operating to support the tourism industry.
Combining all locations, the Maritime Institute produces about 10,000 student sessions per year (one student taking one course equates to one session). Depending on the desired certification, courses range from one day to six weeks. The Maritime Institute crew participates in events nationwide to help promote maritime careers as the industry begins to see younger generations show an interest in the maritime industry. In addition, it offers a “Boot Camp” program for entry-level mariners looking to get their start.
After retirement, Abrams revisited a plan he had created for his third quarter of life, reviewing his goal of wanting to own a company in the maritime industry. He had obtained his Captain’s License from the San Diego Maritime Institute, so he returned to the school to ponder the possibility of purchasing it. He was redirected to a separate company called Training Resources Limited (TRL), a training company created to support Military Sealift Command (a component of the U.S. Department of Defense responsible for providing strategic sealift and ocean transportation for all branches of the U.S. military, along with critical logistical support to that ensure that the military has the necessary supplies, equipment, and personnel, wherever needed, worldwide).
Abrams purchased TRL and, a month later, the Maritime Institute. After acquiring the two companies, Abrams and his crew needed all hands on deck as he added new locations and programs to his maritime holdings.
“We built a school in Honolulu, acquired a competitor in Norfolk, and partnered with a company in Guam to expand our geographic reach,” said Abrams. “We are currently building a new school in Everett, Wash. We started ‘Boater U’ to bring hands-on classroom and on-the-water training to recreational boaters in SoCal. We created an app called ‘SeaLog’ to help mariners track their certifications and sea time. We have invested heavily in new training capabilities, including fire trainers, bridge simulators, damage control trainers, and lifeboat/davit trainers, to make training more hands-on. In the long term, we will grow geographically and by adding more courses for our students. We are currently adding a curriculum for LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) as an example and creating a program to train people to work in shipyards/boatyards to relieve the shortage of skilled people to help with repairs.”
After Abrams combined the two companies, he added a third element into the equation – media.
“Training is sharing what has been done in the past,” said Abrams. “Here’s how we have done things, and I’m going to train you on how we have done things in the past. The media is telling people about what’s going on today. Here’s what’s happening now.”
To achieve the goal of reporting the latest in industry news, he purchased the digital rights to Pacific Maritime Magazine, a publication that had announced it was shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After preserving the title (and its sister publication, Fishermen’s News), Abrams reintroduced them to print. He then found himself in a conversation with the owner of Navigator Publishing. One thing led to another, and today, Abrams publishes four magazines: Pacific Maritime, Professional Mariner, Ocean Navigator and Fishermen’s News, and one newspaper, The Log. The cohort of publications is the product of what is now Maritime Publishing.
The goal was not to grow an expansive media business but to create great content that is readily available to students. The publications also offer a platform for students and teachers to engage with like-minded mariners. In addition, the collective thoughts of the school regarding training are included in the content to enrich the dialogue spawned from the publications.
“We’re trying to create awareness of the industry, and that’s again something that the publishing side of our business can do – is create awareness of the industry,” said Abrams. “There is a lack of awareness in schools about opportunities in the maritime industry, and we are trying to change that and create that dialogue and awareness in junior high and high school. We need new mariners.”
The goal of this collaborative relationship between the Maritime Institute and Maritime Publishing is to help San Diego see its maritime industry grow by introducing new, prepared, and informed mariners.
The reporter creating this story has a pre-existing relationship with the Maritime Institute. Every effort has been made to maintain fairness, accuracy, and impartiality in the coverage of the subject matter.