NEWPORT BEACH一 Orange Coast College celebrated the official opening of the brand-new Professional Mariner Training Center in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 24.
City, local, and state officials, including former director and now Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, and State Senator Dave Min, visited the campus to celebrate the new maritime training facility, which is part of OCC’s re-branded Newport Beach Waterfront Campus.
The new facility was a $22 million project that broke ground about two years ago and is the new home of the college’s Professional Mariner Program with a new two-story building that holds classroom and laboratory space, a radar training room, a conference room, a student lounge, and a full Mission Bridge simulator.
“The professional mariner training center, which is the new building houses our academic program at the college for training future mariners,” said Sarah Hirsch, director of the waterfront campus. “The new building already houses simulation equipment. We have what’s called a full mission bridge simulator, and it is an international standard of training where we essentially enter a room that has T.V. screens all around that are programmed to show a virtual reality of a ship moving. So, the instructor selects a ship and the scenario, and then the students are driving the ship and reacting to the scenario, and so that is really a huge leap for us to be able to offer that to the students.”
The facility also holds a second classroom with individual simulation stations, essentially it is desktop computers with three screens, and a control box that allows students to practice scenarios while at a simulated helm.
The simulators can be used to teach everything from course-plotting on the international standard to radar and other navigation tools.
“You know they have been in different classrooms, and this is the first time that the program has been in a purpose-built building,” said Hirsch. “So, all the students come to the same building for their different classes and so far, that has been amazing… Just seeing all the students in one place was really special…I think it will be great for the program in the long run.”
The facility also hosts a new bridge that crosses over the Pacific Coast Highway to connect the training center to the college’s harborside sailing facility.
“…It really creates a campus that would otherwise be so disconnected,” said Hirsch. “Because the highway is so busy, so it is kind of hard to feel it until you’re here, but the bridge is a really exciting way to tie together everything that we do.”
The professional mariner’s program has been around for 12 years and offers an academic section for students through OCC who are looking to gain a two-year Associates or a certificate in professional maritime, and community boating course for community members looking to brush up on their boating skills or just learn a new skill.
“We have a long-standing history of offering community boating classes, so we will continue at our waterfront facilities,” said Hirsch. “…We will continue to offer community sailing, powerboating, some offshore opportunities, some coastal cruising, and some seamanship classes so navigation and radar for folks who want to learn that for their own recreational boating. We are also going to be adding in some classes for professional mariners who want to work on their merchant mariner credential, or they already have their merchant mariner credential, and they need to add a class there are some classes that are required to increase the scope of a captain’s license essentially.”
Prospective students can visit the waterfront campus website at waterfront.orangecoastcollege.edu to learn more about the program and sign up for classes.
“Our goal is to offer what our boating community needs, whether it is recreational boating opportunities, professional development, or the for-credit program that the students can enroll at the college and actually earn an Associate’ degree,” said Hirsch. “We really are trying to provide our community with a well-rounded array of marine and boating programs.”