Reconnecting to those Days of Glory: from Niagara Falls to Maritime Education and Training

Iman Fiqrie

NL 47
Reconnecting to those days of glory

The Talent Development Professional

By Iman Fiqrie Bin Muhammad (LCDR, USN ret)
Lecturer, Malaysian Maritime Academy

According to the State of Shipping Industry and Forward Looking Perspectives, “The world needs daring and decisive political leadership”.

Niagara Falls, New York

Recently, I was on a well deserved vacation back to my home country
of the United States and the city of Niagara Falls, NY, where I was born
and raised, to visit my family and unwind a little bit. I hadn’t been home
in quite a number of years; I had retired to Malaysia directly from the military  in about 2005, got married and had been in Malaysia ever since. While on  vacation, I also had an editing deadline for this newsletter to worry about and  was also a bit pressed for a specific topic to write about. I read and write a  lot, so having material isn’t the problem. As one would have it, I had also just  gotten off a shipboard attachment onboard an LNG vessel, so this became the  subject of one other article in this month’s newsletter.

Maritime Education and Quality Education

There’s been a lot written in previous GlobalMET newsletters, forums and the  web in general about maritime education and training (MET) and industry  revolving around the need for MET to “step up” the quality of training, the  use of new technologies in course curriculums, taking more responsibility for  talent development of both educators and cadets, acknowledging MET’s own shortcomings and pretty much doing something about the apparent abyssal  state of affairs in MET and industry with reference to quality and standards.

Recapturing the old days of glory

A similar theme can be said to reside in my own hometown of Niagara Falls,  NY (NF), known to many as one of the seven wonders of the world; not so  much maritime education, but education in general, new technologies and  just plain recapturing the former glory the Falls used to have in its earlier years  as the place to go and having a strong regional cultural heritage. I can attest  first hand there are many issues in NF regarding a myriad of standards and  requirements for education, culture and money matters. In this newsletter, I’d  like to try and draw a few parallels between MET and my hometown not by  speaking directly or too hard about maritime issues as this hadn’t seemed to  have work that well before; besides, talking about Niagara Falls and linking it  to maritime is a good diversion, Figure 1 refers.

American and Canadian Falls

American and Canadian Falls

Figure 1 – American and Canadian Falls overlooking the Maid of Mist boats

The State of Niagara Falls parallels maritime education and training

The state of NF is not good, 4 of 6 schools in NF out 276 schools total in Western  NY, rank in the bottom 25%, there are issues abound with city debt, payments  and the tax base; and, a number of families live at or near the poverty line.  My father’s been in NF for nearly seven decades, is an avid photographer  and handed me a historical photo album about the Falls from the 1800s to  about 1969 in which while looking through it I gleaned some important  core principles and themes that seemed to help make Niagara Falls the great  attraction and cultural heritage that it was, used to be and seemed to now be  in decline. The idea here being maybe to ascertain the reason for the city’s  apparent decline and draw some parallels to MET.

A little soul searching for maritime education and training

Maritime education and training and industry could probably do with some  similar soul searching to try and analyze and get back to the glory days  when maritime shipping was great, as significant shortfalls in the industry exists today. As a matter of importance, the maritime industry is extremely important as much of the world’s good and services are economically shipped this way, it also serves many humanitarian purposes, and according to some sources–serves as a primary driver to some of the most important economies in the world. There’s also a cultural heritage aspect and love affair that many countries have with the sea– so why is there a shortfall in seafarers? People don’t want to go to sea?

The maritime industry is becoming more and more complex every day, ships getting bigger and requirements ever increasing; at the center of this is the seafarer himself; and without well trained, educated and technologically competent seafarers– the maritime industry could also be in a state of continual decline.

Core principals and values 

As an observation of the core principles, themes and values that made
Niagara Falls the great city that it was, the following were noted:

  •  Community engagement. This meant  that the people of Niagara were
    actively involved in all aspects of city;  community development, activities
    and progress– to include preservation of the environment.
  • Preparedness and action. The city community seemed to take to heart
    personal responsibility, accountability and a call to action to make the
    city great.
  • Community enrichment. The people seemed grounded and for the
    most part in tune with their surroundings, like family and made the effort
    to help foster and enrich the community.
  • Technology. The Falls provided a natural power source and was for its
    time was on the cutting edge of technology and power generation, this
    attracted a lot of industry to Niagara Falls, but in some ways provided of
    source of conflict for Naturalists.
  • Public service. The people of Niagara Falls went out of their way to
    put others first, serve others, look out for one another, and volunteer
    their time and expertise to make the city great. This has since subsided
    significantly, people are now doing what my old teacher used to refer as
    “…it’s doggy dog out there, ice cream for me– @#!& for you”.
     Tourism. Tourism has, is and seems will always be a mainstay for Niagara
    Falls because of the Falls, but in no small part due to good management.
maritime education and training

Proud to be a Mariner

Figure 2 – Proud To Be A Mariner – An Anglo-Eastern Initiative

Making a difference 

Maybe all of the above but the last one also seems to be relevant core
principles for MET and the maritime industry as well. I get the sense, however,
when I walk around and speak with people in my hometown and MET that
they mostly complain, but rarely want to do what’s required to make a
difference– often asking what’s in it for me; this seems more so in MET and
the maritime industry. When it comes down to it, it seems we haven’t learned
from our forefathers or the last twenty years or so of lessons learned.

Taking too many things for granted 

We also seemed to take many things for granted these days, even though
Global Warming and Climate Change says we should be more than concerned
about the state of affairs. As much, seems we can’t turn the corner on doing
the right things or what’s required to make things better– mostly people
seem concerned about making the all mighty dollar! Follow the money as
they say.

No time for young seafarers and mentoring 

Take this newsletter, for example, most everyone I solicit for writing articles
asks if they get paid for writing articles or they have no time; no time for
the young seafarers they complain about when they get to the ship. Where
one spends one time or gives one attention is what thrives and gets better.
We barely have a enough articles for this edition and there are hundreds of
maritime professionals out there, many of which again are complaining about
the level of knowledge of cadets and newly certified officers–yet themselves
have little to contribute (recall the core themes above) except when it
benefits them.

The journey back to our own success 

In conclusion, on my soul searching journey back to my hometown, I seemed
to have plugged into something and realize that core values and proactive
participation in our own success are relevant and what matters in order to
achieve the future we see for ourselves. What kind of future does MET and
the maritime industry see for themselves? I haven’t really seen an articulated
mission and vision with that in mind. It’s about time we start to articulate a
vision and value proposition about the kind of MET and industry that will
return us to greatness, the pride of nations and make future seafarers want to
go to sea and love it, Figure 2 refers.

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