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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (January 2, 1998 - Marshall Islands Journal)---The Fisheries and Nautical Training Center in Majuro is planning to add training programs for purse seiners, passenger liners and cargo ships to its current curriculum and, for the first time, plans to offer training opportunities to Marshallese women.

Principal Larry Muller said that Marshall Islanders working aboard American longliners have received such high praise that now U.S. purse seine companies and passenger liners are expressing interest in hiring trained Marshallese.

The first priority for FNTC is adding a two month long purse seining course module to the curriculum, which will happen early in 1998.

"We'll start in February with a crash training program for purse seiners," he said. "We'll bring in all the students who have already graduated but didn't get jobs and train them for working on purse seiners."

The American Tuna Association Foundation wants to know the number of Marshallese in the training program and will begin recruiting workers at the end of March, Muller said.

"The purse seine companies are interested because other American boat owners are recommending Marshallese," he said. "They tell us they are very happy with their Marshallese crews."

Another reason for the increasing demand for trained Marshallese is that the marine training school in the Federated States of Micronesia was closed in 1997, reducing the pool of skilled fishermen for the American fishing fleet. And the growing number of ships registered in the Marshall Islands offer major employment and income earning possibilities for Marshallese.

Muller sees great future potential for Marshallese working on a range of different vessels and is working to upgrade the FNTC's curriculum to prepare Marshallese for not only fishing vessels, but cargo ships and passenger liners.

Based on the current 165 ships flying Marshall Islands flags, Muller estimates that if the government adopts a requirement that 30 percent of the crews must be hired locally, this would amount to 442 jobs for Marshall Islanders as "ratings" (seamen), netting them $2.65 million a year. The benefit to the local economy, even if only a quarter or half of those salaries came back here, is obvious.

Muller says he's seen the result of the money the more than 30 FNTC graduates now working with U.S. fishing companies are sending back to their families. "These fishermen are really helping the economy of the Marshalls by sending money back to their families," he said.

Currently, the school can accommodate only 24 students for each nine month training session. But that isn't even close to meeting the demand for job training. In 1997, more than eight young men applied for each of the 24 openings. "This program is very popular with young people because they know when they graduate they will get jobs," Muller said.

So far, more than 30 FNTC graduates are working for U.S. fishing companies in what Muller described as high paying jobs.

Up to now, FNTC has trained only men. Muller is hopeful that the school will also soon be offering training opportunities for women.

American Hawaiian Cruise Line is interested in hiring Marshallese caterers, said Muller, who is discussing training requirements with officials from the Hawaii-based company. "We plan to develop a three months curriculum for catering," he said. "It will focus on training women, to give an equal opportunity to both men and women in the Marshall Islands."

The local training school is gearing its curriculum to take advantage of these new opportunities.

"Everyone is concerned about employment for Marshallese," Muller said. "Look at Kiribati, they have more than 3,000 seamen trained in Tarawa working on foreign ships."

MARSHALL ISLANDS JOURNAL Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: Fax: 692-625-3136 Tel. 692-625-8143 Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year: US $87.00; International $227.00 (air mail)

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