By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie declared that “the future is bright” and insisted that the government has to “reassess” its approach to maritime initiatives after his initial tour of the Lowell J Mortimer (LJM) Maritime Academy on Friday.
Mr Christie, speaking directly to the 41 cadets at the new maritime academy, said once completed the school will create a “hub” for marine science and research in the Bahamas. He added that along with the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) in Andros and the proposed University of The Bahamas, LJM Maritime Academy will prepare Bahamians to “move the country forward”.
He added: “This is an extraordinary stepping stone to new careers, new research, new efforts to empower Bahamians.”
Mr Christie said the school would be “integral” to the future development of the maritime industry in the Bahamas.
“In recent times the minister of transport has been speaking to us about a maritime policy. She has had technical collaboration and consultation on how best to govern and regulate the 100,000 square miles of water around the commonwealth of the Bahamas and how best to utilise this ocean nation to benefit the Bahamian people,” Mr Christie said.
Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin stated: “We are a maritime nation and we have a nation of extremely bright and talented young people. This has the potential of taking our country forward, making a quantum leap and doing wonders for the Bahamian people. This is a new pillar to our economy, it’s going to stimulate new desires in our people and particularly our young people.”
She added: “What is taking place here has vindicated the work of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, this has the potential to be such a pivotal force in the maritime development of our country. It points out in the most poignant fashion that our people are poised to take on the world.”
Mrs Hanna Martin joined Mr Christie in congratulating the academy’s namesake, Lowell J Mortimer. Mrs Hanna Martin called Mr Mortimer a visionary, adding that it is because of people like him, that the Bahamas can continue to “push to see what is truly possible”.
Mr Christie added: “I am very impressed, I was here at the commencement when the groundbreaking took place and the visions were articulated and I want to take the time and congratulate L J Mortimer. I want to put him in the context of a significant philanthropist in our country, he is one of those persons that work hard behind the scenes to make the lives of so many others better.”
The LJM Maritime Academy is a non-profit institution. The maritime academy is the first of its kind in the Bahamas and the second in the Caribbean.
The Maritime Academy offers two programme options, a 36-month nautical science deck/navigation programme and a 39-month marine engineer programme.
Academy consultant, Gabriella Fraiser said: “The maritime industry is one that has so much untapped potential. There is a strong chance that in the near future this industry will grow into a major one for the Bahamas. The Bahamas is listed as number five in the world in terms of the number of ships registered.”
She added: “We already have a rich legacy in the maritime industry, so now we are trying to get more personnel trained for the industry. We want to produce as many industry personnel and industry leaders as we can here at this academy.”
She added: “I am encouraged as a Bahamian because of what the academy can produce. The fact that the programme isn’t so much so Nassau centric, there are kids from all over the country. We have students from Andros, Exuma, Eleuthera, and both private and public schools. This is just a really good mix of students here that are working to do wonders for the Bahamas.
“All of the kids are certainly focused. They are trying to take in as much as they can. I have had the opportunity to talk with a number of the young men and women enrolled in the programme and they seem to share my excitement for the possibilities of this programme and academy.”
Maritime cadet, Kelby Pinder said: “The academy in short provides a means to an end, it provides the students with the opportunity to pursue a career in the maritime industry. The academy teaches us how to navigate large bodies of water and captain huge vessels - vessels we could only dream to captain.”
He added: “I have always been interested in marine sciences, in fact I grew up in Spanish Wells where there is a lot of fishing done, I grew up around water. From a young child I knew I wanted a career around the water. The academy really provides us the basics of everything we need to know in the future. This is the perfect starting point.”
Maritime cadet Hanna Miller said that the academy allowed her the opportunity to stay at home and study here in the Bahamas. She said: “Not everyone has the financial resources to venture away from home. The studies here are on par with a number of international institutions, it supplies the perfect balance of academic theory and practical application. This is truly a world class maritime academy.”
LJM Maritime Academy president Dr Brendamae Cleare said: “Our goal here is to produce quality, skilled personnel. There are nearly 1,500 ships from around the world are presently registered in the Bahamas.”
She added: “If we can somehow get one student on each of those boats in some capacity we would have achieved a major goal. We want to see the maritime field emerge as one of our country’s largest industries, the way to do that is to continue developing the process of what we are doing here at the LJM Academy.”
The LJM Maritime Academy campus is located on Maritime Cay, formerly known as Coral World. The recently completed first phase represents a $30m investment and consists of classrooms, workshops, a sick bay, a bridge simulator room, crane simulator suite, engine room, nurse wet station, temporary administrative offices, temporary library and a temporary laboratory.
Future capital development goals for the academy includes two more phases, the first, a residential hall projected to cost $6.26m and an administrative building, phase three projected to cost roughly $8.8m.