To advance and expand the global economy, establishing a sustainable maritime transportation industry is essential.
The need for shipping services will undoubtedly increase over time. Since the development of global trade, nearly no country can now be completely self-sufficient. Each nation engages in the process of selling what it produces and getting what it needs on some level; every nation can rely on its own resources. Shipping has historically offered the only truly economical route to carry bulk goods over any significant distance, and the growth of shipping and the creation of a world trade order are closely interwoven.
The shipping sector, however, is dependent on a sufficient supply of seafarers to crew the ships that transport the vital supplies on which everyone relies if the world is to be safe, secure, and efficient.
The role of maritime education is to nurture these ideal professionals. This education is more significant in the Caribbean region since the Caribbean is surrounded by water, and travel, tourism, and cargo rely heavily on well-trained crew.
Maritime School of the West Indies (MSWI) has been trying to fulfil this need in the region with its pedagogy.
Striving in the Wake of Unprecedented Uncertainty
The school was opened by Jan and Veerle Roosens on the French side of St Martin. As an IYT partner school, it brought valid maritime education to the Caribbean, which is recognized worldwide.
Garth Steyn purchased the school in Feb 2020, just as the world shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic. As people re-thought their career paths and futures in the wake of unprecedented uncertainty, the Maritime School saw applications to take courses come flooding in, a chance to train a whole new set of crew and captains for the budding tour operator business on St Maarten and for those looking aboard to the mega yacht industry.
Ensuring Better Careers
MSWI specializes in Maritime Courses. In recent years most islands have become stricter with their requirements for operators to be licensed and trained. The added bonus is that with some experience and, for example, the STCW course as a first step, candidates are immediately employable in the industry with a steady and high-paying income.
The STCW 2010 is the standard in seamanship and offers candidates the opportunity to enter the Maritime field at entry level with a very high rate of pay. In addition, the 15M Powerboat, while being a recreational course, offers candidates a chance to start Captain power vessels to run tenders for yachts and marinas. Garth Steyn recently developed a beginner engineering course that is endorsed and licensed by IYT. Any experience with engines allows a candidate to move ahead and become more versatile in their field. A Personal Watercraft Course (operation of jet skis) is a one-day fun course to understand the proper procedure and care of jet skis.
The youth of St Maarten and the surrounding islands are in need of training and direction. Many have no prospects after school, and the Maritime Industry is an exciting field with great upward momentum. The school wants to open doors for them and develop a confident and accomplished maritime workforce in St Maarten.
Fulfilling Lifelong Dreams
Garth Steyn is the owner, instructor, and examiner at the school. Along with partner and instructor Iain Mobbs, they provide hands-on quality instruction with the goal of really teaching and watching a student excel. Many students are encouraged to continue their experience by joining Garth and Iain as they compete in the local and surrounding island races. Watching the pure joy of being out on the water and that first thrill and excitement of competition sailing keeps the instructors involved and eager to show the next generation of sailors how it is done.
Starting in Feb 2020 at the height of the pandemic was a challenge, but people were rethinking their futures and were keen to try something new and take their lives in a different direction. Many signed up for courses as they finally had the time and were fulfilling lifelong dreams and a need to change their occupation.
Overcoming Educational Barriers
Getting permits and endorsements to teach and have the certificates validated was a big challenge initially for the school. The local Boat Master Course, which offers candidates a commercially endorsed captain’s license, valid in the Caribbean, is the big ticket and, under the White Flag of the Netherlands, holds weight throughout the islands. It has been a challenge to find agreement among the Maritime Affairs on each island. With the support and knowledge of St Maarten Maritime Affairs, MSWI has paved the way for recognized Captain licensing throughout the Caribbean.
While many mega yacht crews come for refresher courses, the focus of the school has always been St Maarten’s youth, with great programs like Kidz at Sea. The school has encouraged girls in the field and seen them go far with opportunities abroad. It sees individual needs and meets the need of the individual, which ensures their success and the success of the school, in turn.
Quality Hands-On Courses
The school is developing teaching videos for skills like knot tying and splicing so students have regular references and can enjoy some independent study. Kidz at Sea provides quality hands-on courses like boat maintenance, as only some are book scholars. The school currently has an 80 percent employment rate with its Kidz at Sea program. The school is affiliated with some great and varied companies who are always looking to give kids their first job, Aqua Mania Adventures, a tour operator company, IGY Marinas, St Maarten Sails, and FKG Rigging, to mention a few.
MSWI works closely with the St Maarten Yacht Club to get people their first experiences out on the water sailing small optimists and dinghies. The partnership has allowed youngsters to receive their Dinghy Sailing certifications and even return to teach the younger kids as they have grown and graduated. Boat building programs in the local high school have changed the curriculum from building chairs and tables in woodworking to building boats and launching them, and the pinnacle success of the program was sailing the boat in the world-class sailing St Maarten Heineken Regatta.