The term “confused seas” describes a highly disturbed sea surface with irregular and unpredictable wave travel. For governments, industry, and people, COVID-19, unprecedented since the 1918 influenza pandemic, is synonymous with navigating confusion. For mariner at-sea training, it presents a daunting challenge.
Modern training for licensed mariners benefits from simulators and classroom training at maritime academies, but hands-on at-sea training—for a minimum of 360 days—is irreplaceable. Just as no one would fly with a pilot who had never trained in the air and soloed, no ship operator would entrust a merchant vessel carrying passengers or cargoes to a third mate or third engineer not trained on board a ship at sea. It is unthinkable.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MarAd) owns eight training ships whose core purpose is providing the hands-on at-sea training required to qualify cadets for their U.S. Coast Guard license examinations. The crucial third-mate or engineer license is the ticket to a career as a merchant marine officer. These ships normally are operated by merchant marine academies under maritime agreements.
1. The TS Kennedy will be replaced by the TS Patriot State, the second National Security Multi-Mission Vessel (NSMV) of the State class. The Patriot State is expected to be launched in 2023 in Philadelphia under a commercial shipbuilding contract between Tote Services LLC and Philly Shipyard Inc. NSMV, unlike other government ships, is built on a fixed-price basis per commercial practices.