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Law passed to create federal Maritime Center of Excellence designation

December 20th, 2017

24276906227 3f331218f2 z 300x200 Law passed to create federal Maritime Center of Excellence designation

The fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was recently signed into law, which includes provisions from the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act (H.R. 2286). This authorizes federal designation of community and technical college “centers of excellence.” Pictured is John Stauffer, associate vice chancellor and superintendent of maritime at San Jacinto College, in the engine room simulator at the College’s Maritime Technology and Training Center in La Porte, Texas. Photo credit: Jeannie Peng Mansyur, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.

Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act supported by Sen. John Cornyn and Congressman Gene Green

President Donald Trump signed into the law the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes provisions from the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act (H.R. 2286) that authorizes federal designation of community and technical college “centers of excellence” to help provide technical education and training programs to secure the talent pipeline for the nation’s maritime workforce.

Congressman Gene Green (D-TX-29) introduced the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act. In September, the legislation was offered on the Senate floor as part of broader package of maritime provisions contained in an NDAA amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

“San Jacinto College is positioned as a top maritime training program in the heart of one of the largest ports in the world,” said Sen. Cornyn. This legislation will benefit both national security and international trade and allow for the growth and strengthening of our maritime workforce thanks to training programs at our community colleges.”

As a Maritime Center of Excellence, San Jacinto College will expand its capacity to train domestic maritime workers by admitting more students, training faculty, expanding facilities, creating new maritime career pathways from associate degree to baccalaureate degree programs, and awarding credit for prior learning experience – including military service.

“In our district, we have a surplus of maritime jobs and not enough people with the skills and training to fill them,” said Congressman Gene Green (D-TX-29) in a press release. “The industry is continuing to invest and grow along the Port of Houston, and we want to make sure that our constituents have the opportunity to take these high skilled, middle-class jobs. This bipartisan legislation will help bridge the gap. It’s good for our local community, it’s good for our businesses, and it’s good for the American economy.”

A lack of federal government focus on domestic maritime industry technical training, maritime workers approaching retirement, technological advancements, and the expansion of the Panama Canal are all factors that affect the maritime workforce shortage. Under the provisions of the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) can support community and technical college centers of excellence by providing funding and support, technical assistance, and donating surplus federal assets for maritime education – such as marine vessels for use in training programs. Recently, San Jacinto College received support from MARAD to allow maritime students access to Ready Reserve Fleet ships to keep current with the most recent developments of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW).

San Jacinto College has awarded more than 5,500 U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)-approved course completion certificates since 2010 and introduced the state’s first associate degree program in maritime transportation to train those new to the maritime industry. Last year marked the opening of the College’s Maritime Technology and Training Center on the Maritime Campus in La Porte, Texas, to offer more training opportunities for new and incumbent mariners.

“We are truly grateful to Sen. Cornyn and Rep. Green for supporting the important role community colleges hold in the training of mariners for the workforce,” said Dr. Brenda Hellyer, Chancellor of San Jacinto College, in a prepared statement. “San Jacinto College’s maritime program is located along one of the busiest ports in the United States. We are committed to producing highly qualified mariners and aim to alleviate the shortages occurring due to retirements and the expanding global market.”

The San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center on the Maritime Campus offers a full calendar of USCG-approved maritime courses. For more information and to register, visit

About San Jacinto College 

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. As a fiscally sound institution, the College currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Rising Star Award recipient and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. Approximately 45,000 credit and non-credit students each year benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers eight areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to four-year colleges or universities or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College call 281-998-6150, visit or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center

June 30th, 2017

maritime simulator San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center

San Jacinto College’s state-of-the-art simulator. Photography by Debra Rueb.

stauffer 190x300 San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center

John Stauffer

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?

January 2016

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.

Maritime crane simulator.

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.