Students battle a blaze at the Joseph Sacco Fire Fighting and Safety School, part of the Seafarers International Union’s
Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education in Piney Point, Md.
can Red Cross first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation,
and hazardous materials recertification
The school’s most popular program, which always
has a waiting list, is the more comprehensive unlicensed
apprentice program. The three-phase program, which
can take up to a year to complete and includes ship-
board training, provides graduates with the Standards of
Training, Certification and Watchkeeping requirements
needed to sail on U.S.-flag deepwater vessels.
Since the school opened in Piney Point in 1991, it has
graduated more than 30,000 students from the unlicensed apprentice program. If an applicant can obtain a
Transportation Worker Identification Certificate, pass a
drug screening and provide proof of a Merchant Mariner
credential, the center will accept them into the program
for free. If the student does well in class, he or she is
guaranteed a job when they graduate.
“Most of this school is attitude and effort. If you come
in here with a good attitude and you want to be a
Merchant Mariner, the sky’s the limit,” Wiegman said.
According to the school’s website, more than 75 percent of the mariners who complete the unlicensed apprentice program are still sailing four years after graduation.
The school has three main types of students. The
unlicensed apprentice program students wear dungarees. Students who have been on a ship and come back
to receive their rating wear khakis. Those who have
received their rating but are looking to upgrade are per-mitted to wear civilian clothing. The minimum age to
attend classes is 18 and the oldest current student is 81.
Although the center offers a wide range of courses
and training, a student cannot get a Merchant Mariner
license there. The center does, however, offer a license
Stacey McNeely, who is a teacher and simulator instructor, has been at the school for almost a decade. Over that
time, she’s seen simulators become a major part of the
education process and watched students come to realize
what an important asset they are.
“Things are becoming more computerized and
technology-based, which means students are going to
have to come back to get more training. Every time the
technology is upgraded, the students need to come
back for training,” McNeely said.
She said companies are placing a greater emphasis
on simulator training for reduced visibility and
SEAPOWER / SEPTEMBER 2010