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Caribbean Maritime Institute to become university amid training concern

Published:Wednesday | January 20, 2016 | 1:44 PMJovan Johnson, Gleaner Writer
A cadet learns how to navigate a ship using one of the simulators at the Caribbean Maritime Institute.

The Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI), now the subject of scrutiny over the quality of its training and education, is to be upgraded to a university.

The Transport Minister, Dr Omar Davies, says the Cabinet has sanctioned legislation to facilitate the upgrade.

However, he says it will be another four to six months before the law is brought to Parliament for debate and approval. 

Davies says during the period, the education ministry will develop a general policy on the granting of university status.

On officially becoming a university, the Caribbean Maritime Institute will be renamed the Caribbean Maritime University. 

Meanwhile, Dr Davies says the CMI is 'deserving' of the university status because of what he says is the quality of training and students being produced. 

"Even before accreditation had been granted in Jamaica, overseas tertiary institutions have accepted CMI students into their graduate programmes. It's producing who are work ready and also producing graduates who are ready for postgraduate studies," Davies said. 

However, in a report tabled in the Parliament, the auditor general, Pamela Munroe Ellis, questioned the quality of training at the CMI, noting that it has been employing "unqualified and inexperienced" people to teach its students, in breach of international guidelines.

The transport, works and housing minister says he has asked the CMI board to review the report. 

In the meantime, CMI's executive director, Dr Fritz Pinnock, says the report contains "wrong" conclusions because the auditor general did not sufficiently understand the maritime education industry.

He says almost two years ago the institute removed a requirement for three years' teaching experience because of the global shortage of maritime instructors and the need to ensure adequate staff.

The auditor general had cited that six assistant lecturers who were employed did not possess the requisite three-year experience or formal training.

The CMI was established in 1980 as the Jamaica Maritime Training Institute, the result of the collaborative effort of the governments of Jamaica and Norway. 

More than 2,000 students attend the institution, which the government is pushing to be a leader in training for Jamaica's logistics hub thrust.