Thirteen Bahamian cadets were among 572 State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College students on board training vessel The Empire State VI, which visited Nassau, The Bahamas, on the weekend.

Vice Admiral John W Craine, Jr, President, SUNY Maritime College, Dr Joseph Hoffman, Vice President of Academic Affairs, College Provost, and Captain Richard Smith, Commandant of Cadets, accompanied them.

They were welcomed in ceremonies at Prince George Wharf, on May 16, 2008, by Minister of Labour and Maritime Affairs the Hon. Dion Foulkes, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Carl Bethel, Minister of State for Tourism and Aviation the Hon. W. A. Branville McCartney, executives in the maritime industry, families and friends.

Minister Foulkes encouraged Bahamians to take advantage of opportunities in the maritime field.

“Given the opportunities that exist in the maritime industry,” he said, “the number of Bahamians enrolled in related courses and employed in the field is still far too small.

“I am very happy, therefore, to see young Bahamians, their classmates and their instructors making Nassau their first port of call, and setting an example to those still in high school.”

There is a “definite shortage” of Bahamians seeking to become pilots, captains, marine engineers and navigators, he said.

“We need to encourage more of our young people to follow the lead of the students on Empire State VI and pursue degrees in fields related to the maritime industry if we are to progress further in this industry.”

The cadets are on a 10-week training program. They left New York on May 12. Nassau was the first of four ports of call.

They are headed across the Atlantic to Spain and France, through the Straits of Gibraltar, and on to England before returning to New York.

They left The Bahamas on Sunday, after participating in a number of community events in Nassau.

Twelve other countries are represented on board the Empire State VI.

The Bahamas has twelve more cadets studying in California.

“A lot of training goes on during those days,” said Vice Admiral Craine. “We ask an awful lot of our students and they never cease to amaze us. They are doing a terrific job aboard the ship.

“They are learning a great deal about life at sea, engineering and seamanship skills. More importantly they, along with all their shipmates, are learning an awful lot about themselves. We are very proud of them.”

He added that he looked forward to more Bahamians attending SUNY Maritime College. It is nationally ranked and rated one of the best in the United States.

“Our graduating seniors all have jobs or job offers at graduation, and they receive some of the highest starting salaries of any graduating senior in the country,” said Vice Admiral Craine.

“In addition to a world class education, and the hands-on training they get on this ship, they also get to visit at least a dozen ports of call.”

The pilot, Capt Eugene Munro, who guided the Empire State VI through Nassau Harbour, and his apprentice, were SUNY Maritime College graduates.

Dr. Hoffman noted that scholarships were offered last year to Bahamians to participate in their summer leadership forum.

“This August,” he said, “seventeen of them will enter the Maritime College as fully matriculated students.

“There are 13 Bahamian students on board the ship. My goal is that the next time we visit the Bahamas we will have increased that number by tenfold.”

The Bahamas has the world’s largest cruise ship registry and the third largest registry for all ships.

Minister McCartney confirmed that Nassau harbor would soon be dredged, allowing it to accommodate the largest class of cruise ships.

“This is exciting for our country which already welcomes about 3 million cruise passengers each year,” he said.