The first general meeting of members of the International Maritime Cluster – «IT Education Chamber» was held in Odessa on 31 January. The cluster was established at Kherson State Maritime Academy on 15 October 2016. The members present at the meeting summarized last year’s performance of the cluster and outlined a cooperation plan for 2017.
The International Maritime Cluster was established for the purpose of consistent improvement in seamen’s training at the Kherson State Maritime Academy, including the introduction of state-of-the-art information technologies and the upgrading of the Academy’s materials and resources, made possible by attracting investments. The International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) joined the cluster. Among its members are major international companies, such as Marlow Navigation, Columbia Shipmanagement and Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, publishing houses, construction corporations and banks. On 31 January, representatives of all these organizations gathered in Odessa to discuss urgent issues associated with improving the quality of seamen’s education.
According to Vladimir Khodakovskiy, Rector of the Kherson State Maritime Academy, the institution’s decade-long cooperation with Marlow Navigation, as well as its long-term cooperation with every cluster member, even before the establishment of the cluster was officially announced, is key to the progress made throughout the whole of 2016. It is gratifying to see that international organizations are expressing profound interest in Ukrainian seafarers and ready to invest into their education. For instance, last year, IMEC allotted US $2.4 million to the Kherson State Maritime Academy for technology and equipment, US $2.2 million of which has already been disbursed to upgrade the fire fighting training ground at the Kherson State Maritime Academy, purchase an ECDIS simulator a navigation simulator with a dynamic system, a state-of-the-art engine room simulator and a GMDSS simulator.
The cluster continues its cooperation with the Odessa branches of the largest international crewing companies. Marlow Navigation Ukraine provides its cadets with a successful start to their maritime career. Boris Ezri, the company’s Director General, confirmed that, in 2016 alone, Marlow Navigation Ukraine referred 88 cadets of the Kherson State Maritime Academy for practical training on vessels belonging to foreign shipowners. When summarizing performance in the last year, Sergey Maslov, Director General of Columbia Shipmanagement Ukraine, emphasized that his company supported the idea of training experts in new areas of specialization – cook and baker – at the premises of the Kherson Maritime Lyceum. Majoring in these areas is popular among young people because there is always a demand for such specialists to work on various types of vessels. The opinion that Ukrainian seafarers rank highly on the international market was confirmed by Giles Heimann, Corporate Director of the Human Resources Marine of Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, Alfred von der Hoeh, General Manager of Marlow Navigation, and David Heindel, Chair of the Seafarers’ Section of ITF, all of whom were present at the meeting.
Vladimir Khodakovskiy reported to members of the cluster about an entirely new and unprecedented initiative in Ukraine. The Kherson State Maritime Academy has developed a student loan programme for gifted cadets. Alpha Bank, which won the programme tender, will offer student loans at an interest rate of 3% per annum. Such loans are to be paid back over a two-year repayment period, but only once the student graduates find a job. International companies and maritime agencies, which are members of the cluster, will guarantee employment for such cadets. The Academy Rector believes that this programme will make quality education more accessible and contribute to the institution producing the maximum number of well-trained specialists. In other words, the cluster is taking on collective responsibility in this regard, so that, in around five years’ time, the first students trained within the framework of the new student loan programme will graduate.
In the last few months the International Maritime Cluster has worked hard on improving cadet training principles. Following instructions from the Ministry of Education, the management team of the Kherson State Maritime Academy, together with the Ukrainian National Academy of Education, has been implementing a competency-based approach to education, changing the knowledge assessment system and adjusting training principles for both cadets and teaching staff. For instance, there are plans that teachers of the Kherson State Maritime Academy will make sea voyages in order to gain practical experience, which they can then share with cadets. By 2018, the management team of the Kherson State Maritime Academy must submit its cadet training programme for approval by the Ministry of Education, as well as proposals for the introduction of new standards in education.