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By Fred Resture

Acting Captain Superintendent Tuvalu Maritime School

FUNAFUTI, Tuvalu (February 1999-Tuvalu Echoes)---The Tuvalu Maritime School (TMS) was born in September 1979 with assistance from the Australian government. The school is located on Amatuku, one of a string of islets which make up the atoll of Funafuti, approximately five nautical miles across the lagoon from the center of government. The islet was chosen mainly because of its isolation, which allows the training facilities to be operated as if it were a ship.

The objective of the school is to provide quality training for Tuvalu seafarers at all levels to enhance their opportunities for employment in the maritime industry.

The school is comprised of fully residential, dormitory style accommodations for 60 pre-sea trainees, training facilities for deck, engine and catering ratings, and residential accommodation for nine staff members and their families.

The training facilities include classrooms, a library/audio visual center, a galley/mess room, fully equipped engine and seamanship workshops and a survival center, including a motor lifeboat on gravity davits. A fire fighting center is being constructed and completion is expected by May of this year. A cargo-handling simulator also has been installed at the school.

Staffing is a mix of overseas and local instructors. The departures of the Captain Superintendent and the Marine Officer late last year and early this year respectively has resulted in their being no expatriate officer.

TMS offers training programs for both new entrants to the maritime industry and for experienced seafarers seeking higher qualifications and personal advancement.

There are three pre-sea programs each taking 20 new entrants, and each year, approximately 150 experience seaman attended revalidation programs to ensure that their survival, fire fighting, personal safety and first aid skills are up to date. Although some young men are studying to become engineers and deck officers, no formal training is carried out at TMS.

At present, training at TMS is restricted to young men. Much effort has been expended to change traditional culture values and perceptions, but Tuvalu seafarers still decline to employ women.

The pre-sea training program for trainees comprises a 12-month training period. During the first four months, the program introduces trainees to basic skills associated with the deck, engine room and catering departments, who then spent four months aboard the "MV Nivaga II," doing their sea time. Their last four months ashore are used to refresh basic skills and acquire more advance knowledge in their chosen department. At the end of 12 months, the trainees graduate and, from there they can enter the maritime industry worldwide.

At the moment, the 48th and the 50th courses are doing their shore training, while the 49th course is undergoing sea training.

The school has started recruiting exams for the 51st course. So far, the young men on Funafuti Island have completed their exams/interviews and a team of instructors is going to do the same on the outer islands when the "MV Nivaga II" sails.

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