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Monthly Archives

June 2021

“There’s a smaller window for error”: Captain Andre Smith shares risks facing marine industry

By | Uncategorized

Being part any industry for over four decades would give anyone substantial insight into its operations, developments, and challenges. It is with this unique perspective that Captain Andre Smith has brought to the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) where he serves as a senior marine pilot.

Captain Smith began his journey in the maritime industry as a cadet in 1980 before working his way up to being captain of his first vessel a decade later. He described that initial voyage where he held command of a vessel from Mobile, Alabama in the United States of America to Port Esquivel in Jamaica as filled with nerves but “exciting”.

Back then, things were somewhat simpler as the demands of international commerce were not at today’s increasingly frenzied pace, which has brought its own difficulties.

“The day-to-day challenges that the [local] marine pilot face is the same challenge that all pilots around the world face; the vessels are getting much bigger [but] the ports are not getting any bigger,” Smith.

“It’s the same size ports that we are squeezing these bigger and bigger vessels in. Every time a bigger vessel comes, there’s a smaller window for error in doing these manoeuvres. So we have to be extremely careful bringing these ships in.”

Stressing the role of the marine pilot in carefully guiding vessels, Smith said “Safety is our biggest regard; that overrides everything. We don’t consider commercial pressure when it comes to safety because that is our job and that is what we are paid to do – to make sure that everything is safe, we don’t have any accidents, we don’t have any oil spills, anything like that. That is what we do first and foremost.”

Despite the significance of the role, the Caribbean Maritime Institute and Warsash Maritime College alumnus said mariners are often overlooked.

“The Jamaican seafarers don’t get vast recognition. I think the only time anybody heard or cared anything about seafarers is when the pandemic started and we had to repatriate some of the persons that were working on cruise ships,” he said.

Despite the challenges faced, including the inability to leave ships and be repatriated home when their contracts ended, seafarers continued to work “to keep the lines of commerce open because the world trade is pinned or pivots on maritime trade. We are the silent underpin to the whole world trade and a lot of people don’t realise that and take a lot of things for granted.”

With the International Maritime Organization recognising Day of the Seafarer, and the need for their ‘fair futures’ on June 25, Smith shared his thoughts on what that means.

“A fair future is one in which they are adequately compensated for the work that they have done and are not mistreated, as they have been in some instances, by not getting wages and not being able to go home when their contracts are up.” Further, he said while the dwelling conditions aboard most ships have improved, many are still “less than ideal for long-term living”.

Locally, Smith said the continued education and training of seafarers is urgently needed to ensure safe operations within the developing industry.

“I would love to see a more comprehensive programme of training because these ships are getting much bigger and the ports are remaining at the same size so we need to do more in terms of keeping pilots current with the activities that are happening internationally and to make sure that when these ships come, they don’t come as a surprise to us and we are struggling to keep up with them.

“We would have already been fully trained, done all the simulators and we have gone onboard live model ships to train. What I would love to see is the more fulsome co-operation with some of these shipping companies when it comes to developing training programmes. I would love to see more work being done in coordinating training for all the pilots; a few of us have already done some preliminary work but that is far too few, we need to do some more.”





Theory and Practical in One – MSc Security Studies

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Based on the developments taking place on the world stage and in the international system, the students participating in the MSc. Security Studies programme at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) have been exposed to both the theory and practical components of these developments, making them more rounded in their field of study. Happening almost simultaneously, they would have witnessed a global pandemic (COVID-19) and the international responses by nations.

The US elections and the events of January 6, 2021, – race relations in the US and how it has manifested into hate crimes, the death of George Floyd and the vociferous call for policing reforms are issues and possibilities which were assessed during the programme. The students would have seen a shift in US foreign policy from Donald Trump’s realist pulpit “America First and America Alone” to Biden’s Liberalist approach of “America is back, Multi Literalism is back”. They are presently witnessing the G7 Summit to be followed by the NATO Summit. They would have also noticed the shift in terrorism threat from the international level to the domestic level and finally, the threat of cybercrime and how cyber-criminals are using ransomware to extort large enterprises, especially those located in the United States of America. The list is not exhaustive, but these issues readily come to mind.

Mr Owen Ellington and I, along with the other lecturers, would have taught all these areas and possibilities in our lectures, which would have incorporated the theoretical aspect of the teaching and learning experience. On the other hand, the antagonism in the international system and human behaviour would have addressed the practical side in reality.

I don’t believe that another group will be so fortunate to receive the theoretical knowledge and have that information unfold so quickly with developments globally, thus creating a realistic and practical experience for them.

We encourage our students to continue to engage in environmental scanning as they seek to apply their knowledge in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

Let us not forget that knowledge gained is of no value if it is not shared.


Author: Assan Thompson, Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, JCF                

Head of Department,  Centre for Security, Counter terrorism and Non-Proliferation (CSCTN)                

Caribbean Maritime University

CMU a key partner in a regional port development initiative

By | CMU News, Uncategorized

June 1, 2021 (Kingston, JA) – The Caribbean Maritime University today announces that it will be a part of the INTERAMERICAS GATE project, a collaborative Caribbean partnership to develop better tools to aggregate and visualize key maritime port economic and environmental data. Led by the Antilles-Guiana Interport Coordination Council (CCIAG), the INTERAMERICAS GATE is a multi-partner project between the Grand Port Maritime of Guiana, the Grand Port Maritime of Guadeloupe, the Grand Port Maritime of Martinique, the Galisbay Port of Saint-Martin and the Caribbean Maritime University through our Centre for Digital Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing (CMU-CDIAM).

The project is funded by the INTERREG Caribbean, a European Territorial Co-operation programme that allows operators in Guadeloupe, Guiana, Martinique and Saint-Martin to implement win-win projects with their neighbors in the Caribbean. The INTERREG operational programme makes it possible to finance numerous cooperation projects between Caribbean territories. In this case from the Guaine Shield to the Caribbean, this project will use data as a bridge to understand more about key port economic data in the region. The INTERREG Caribbean funding made it possible to integrate the CMU-CDIAM in Jamaica as an extra-community partner.

The global maritime industry is strategic to economic development of nations especially in small island states like those in the Caribbean region. Data and information have now emerged as some of the most important assets that a country/region can develop. Tapping in to and sharing key port data across the region can make Caribbean ports more competitive drivers of regional growth and development. The CMU-CDIAM will lead the technical development of the web-based platform that will combine datasets from the 4 port partners with machine learning algorithms to help the regional port authorities get a better picture of the threats, opportunities, weaknesses, and strengths found in the consolidated port economic and environmental data.

“This project brings together the best of the CMU’s capabilities — our knowledge in the maritime sector and our expertise in digital transformation technologies,” said Erica Simmons, Executive Director, CMU-CDIAM, “We know the importance of data and information as the foundations of digital transformation, and we are committed to contributing the transformation of our Caribbean maritime sector.”

The collaborative 3-year project will begin with collecting data such as annual tonnage, annual TEUs, traffic and passengers from 4 ports but eventually be extended to include all Caribbean ports and more data points. For more information about the INTERAMERICAS GATE visit: