|Five of Barbados’ top students at the CMI meeting pilots and other Port officials.??(C.Pitt/BGIS)|
Six Barbadian students on scholarship at the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) have emerged among the top ten students after their first year of study.
The students, who are pursuing studies in Officers-in-charge of Navigation Watch and Officers-in-charge of Engineering Watch, are Asha Beckles, the only female, Jeremy Bovell, Kayode Branch, Jeremy O’Dowd, Shakere Hall and Victor Cooke.
The six were recently lauded for their achievements by Minister of International Business and International Transport, George Hutson, during a meeting with CMI Principal, Fitz Pinnock, and officials from the Barbados Port Inc. (BPI), at the Ministry’s office in the Baobab Towers, Warrens, St. Michael.
"These Officer Cadets are to be commended for their commitment and dedication to the programme, and have ended the Phase One [part] of the programme within the top ten places out of a cohort of 86 Cadets from various Caribbean, South American, Eastern European and African countries," he said.
Mr. Hutson explained that his Ministry, in conjunction with the BPI and the Shipping Association of Barbados, embarked on a capacity building exercise to train seafarers to fill vacancies onboard ships, as posts are expected to become vacant within another five to ten years when those currently holding such positions retire.
"Indeed, it is the Ministry’s plan to provide increased employment opportunities to nationals at the highest levels of the maritime industry given the
growing number of international vessels operating within the region under the Barbados flag," he said.
Mr. Hutson noted that the capacity building programme started with the recruitment of 24 young people, of which the top six candidates were selected for scholarships sponsored by the BPI.
During the meeting, Mr. Pinnock disclosed that officials at CMI were so impressed with the students’ performance that the green light was given to allow them to advance on to their third year of study in September.
As a result, they would do the practical component of the programme, which entailed working onboard vessels for a minimum of six months, at the end of their studies, and not in their second year as originally scheduled.
"Based on their performance, the Dean of the Faculty said he would have no problem in allowing them to do the final phase and then doing the sea time on the back end. That is another win-win for Barbados," Mr. Pinnock said.
Top student, Kayode Branch, described his experience as a "very worthwhile opportunity", though he admitted that the coursework could be sometimes challenging. "I look at it that I am on a scholarship so I think it is in my best interest to put my best foot forward for myself, the company and Barbados," he said, adding the area held a number of job opportunities for those who wanted to get involved.
The lone female in the group, Asha Beckles, who has her sights set on becoming a Marine Engineer, said it was an area that she would encourage other women to become involved in, if they had the desire to do so.
Jeremy Bovell explained the success of the Barbadian students. "It was about teamwork and co-operation. When we didn’t understand a situation we came together and sat down and studied hard, prepared for exams and read ahead. Preparation was key and in all things that was the most important step we took," he said.
Noting that they were being trained to pilot tug boats and vessels weighing as much as 500 gross tonnes, Mr. Bovell said expertise in this very narrow field would open many doors of opportunity for them.
"What the Port is doing there is very beneficial to the development of Barbados. If that opportunity could be passed on to other people it would be a great privilege," he said.