Responses by John Stauffer, Associate Vice Chancellor/Superintendent of maritime at the San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center on the Maritime Campus.
When did San Jacinto College make the move to this new maritime center?
How is it being located so close to the Bay Port Industrial Complex?
The San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center is a world-class facility that is prominently and strategically positioned on the Houston Ship Channel so as to best serve the mariners working in the industry. I could not have envisioned a better location to afford us an opportunity to be seen by our customers and work closely with our industry partners while they are performing their duties.
Did the maritime industry anticipate there was a shortage of qualified labor to work on the inland water ways of the US?
Yes. In 2016, MARAD estimated that 70,000 seafarers will be needed by 2022, and the State Maritime Academies will not be able to produce this amount. The current U.S. maritime workforce is also aging with more than 61 percent being 50 years of age or older.
In addition to an aging workforce, the new changes to U.S. Coast Guard requirements that took effect Jan. 1, 2017 for working mariners has created a perfect storm resulting in unqualified mariners. That is why the San Jacinto College maritime program is so vital.
What’s the best part of your job and why?
The best part of my job is seeing students achieve their goals of completing maritime courses and receiving their certificates and associate degrees.
What do you tell young students starting out in the program?
I tell our students that they are entering an exciting industry that is only limited by their ambitious and dedication. If they want to be an Unlimited Master onboard some of the world’s largest ship they simply must put in the hard work and continue to take the necessary courses required by the USCG to increase their license.
How many students attend the program on a yearly basis and what percentage graduate with a degree?
Since 2010, we have awarded more than 5,500 USCG course completion certificates in our commercial maritime program. In our credit maritime program, we currently have 53 students pursuing their associate degrees in maritime transportation with another 22 new incoming students enrolled for Fall 2017.
What role will technology play in the future of these current maritime students?
Technology is ever changing within the maritime industry to increase safety at sea, enhance situation awareness for the maritime professional, and also increase efficiency. The Maritime Center houses the very latest technology and U.S. Coast Guard-approved curriculum to allow us to continue to offer training to captains, mates, deckhands, tankerman, and engineer in a safe, professional and productive training environment.
If you could change one thing about the US Maritime industry, what would it be?
The shipping industry is facing an impending crisis as it pertains to available manpower. The Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act was recently introduced in the U.S. House and Senate by a bipartisan group of co-sponsors.
The Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act creates a special federal designation exclusively for two-year community and technical colleges involved in maritime workforce training, and for maritime workforce training programs operated by state agencies. Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence will receive federal support to address education and technical training for maritime workers in U.S. ports, inland waterways and the Great Lakes.
This will complement the university-based system known as State Maritime Academies, which receives federal support to train professional mariners and marine engineers for careers in international shipping. I believe this legislation is vital to ensuring there is adequate trained mariners working in the industry. The Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act has already been passed unanimously by House and Senate committees.
Does the Coast Guard have any input into what goes in to some of your current courses?
Yes. All course material, training equipment, instructors, and facilities must be approved by the USCG prior to being taught.
How long have you been affiliated with the program at San Jacinto and how has the program changed?
I assumed my duties as Associate Vice Chancellor/Superintendent of the San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Transportation Center in September 2016. However, the journey of this program began a decade prior when San Jacinto College began having conversations and listened to the needs of our industry partners. In May 2010, we leased space along Highway 225 to teach USCG approved training.
It did not take long to outgrow the space, and in result, the College purchased 13 acres of waterfront property to build the 45,000-square-foot facility that is used today to train students in USCG-approved courses.
This larger state-of-the-art facility, coupled with the donation of the full-mission bridge simulator from the Houston Pilots, has allowed the maritime center to grow to offering more than 75 USCG-approved deck and engine courses.
Additionally, San Jacinto College introduced Texas’ first associate degree in maritime transportation. This 60-credit hour program includes USCG-approved training that ranges from entry-level deckhand on an inland towboat to Unlimited Tonnage Masters on the world’s largest ships, and everything in between.