Gaining real-world skills at SUNY’s Maritime College

For ten months of the year, the State University of New York’s Maritime College students study at the college campus located at Fort Schuyler in the southeastern part of the Bronx.
However, if you are looking for a Maritime cadet between May and July, chances are he or she can be found somewhere upon the high seas onboard the Empire State VI,the school’s 46-year-old training ship.
During those months, cadets undertake a supplemental academic program that compliments the education given ashore. The goal of this shipboard training is to meet rigorous Coast Guard requirements and, more importantly,  prepare each cadet for a life in the maritime industry.
The voyage consists of three-day training rotations. In a nine-day cycle, the future Merchant Marine officers will do three consecutive days of work, watch and academic training. These rotations are designed to give cadets the chance to gain an understanding of the skills necessary to manage a seaworthy ship.

As a MUG  or Mariner Under Guidance, aka. a Freshman, it is stimulating to marry academic knowledge and professional skills. Being able to apply a lesson during a work day, such as using block and tackle, that has just been taught is more constructive than the traditional education that most colleges offer. Days after learning about navigational lights required for vessels in a Rules of the Road class, it’s valuable to be able to identify the lights of approaching ships during watch. With enough practice, spotting the lights will hopefully be as simple as noticing the differences between BMWs and Fords while driving down the road close to home near Batavia, N.Y.

Throughout the Summer Sea Term, all cadets must negotiate four rounds of ‘Oral Qualifications,’ or Qs. During this process, a first class cadet passes on his or her knowledge of a specific topic, such as Firefighting, to designated underclassmen. On a scheduled date, a licensed officer leads a walkthrough of the ship with that group of students and quizzes them on related material.
In addition, MUGs are required to complete a set of written qualifications that test ship knowledge. Besides the obvious benefits of teaching young cadets information, these written qualifications give them practice writing in Log Books.
Unlike most of their brethren back home, the young adults onboard TSES VI have long days that start at sunrise and extend into the early evenings. In addition to the academics, the rigrous daily routine develops in trainees important qualities required by workers in all professions.  These include learning the importance of listening to authority figures, personal responsibility in a potentially dangerous environment, gaining the capability and confidence to perform in what could be an adverse situations and, most importantly, working with others.

Ask any foreign exchange student how much he or she learned during a stay abroad and the respondent generally will say knowledge gained about language and culture during the short trip far surpassed that from hours of classroom study. The same is true of SUNY Maritime College cadets who are training to be a licensed Merchant Marine officer onboard the Training Ship Empire State.

By Professional Mariner Staff