Colombia Welcomes U.S. Training Ship Kennedy

Colombia Welcomes U.S. Training Ship Kennedy

By Yolima Dussán/Diálogo
March 14, 2018

The Massachusetts Maritime Academy and Colombia’s Almirante Padilla Naval Academy exchanged knowledge and experience.

Crewmembers of the USTS Kennedy—a training ship from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy operated by the U.S. Merchant Marine—carried out a cultural and experiential exchange with Colombia’s Almirante Padilla Naval Academy (ENAP, in Spanish). The U.S. ship docked in late January 2018 at the Port of Cartagena, Colombia. The training freighter, which was manned by officers, U.S. Merchant Marine cadets, instructors, and professors visited Colombia as part of its tour of various ports in Central America and the Caribbean.

“The ship visited Cartagena to explore the possibility of launching academic exchanges,” said Colombian Navy Rear Admiral Francisco Cubides Granados, director of ENAP. “This [exchange] allows us to send our cadets to their academy and send them aboard the USTS Kennedy to meet the International Maritime Organization’s training requirements for seafarers.”

International scene

The visit of the U.S. ship meets the needs of both institutions to broaden the spectrum of education and training, and familiarize students with the international scene. The universities made mutual visits; ENAP officers and cadets toured the USTS Kennedy, while the ship’s student crewmembers visited the Colombian Naval Academy.

“The mere fact of exchanging words in another language is good for our cadets, as it is for cadets of the United States,” said Colombian Navy Commander Jorge Alberto Cabrera Botero, an ENAP battalion commander. “It’s nice to have exchanges with cadets who may not speak Spanish but share the same [professional] culture, the same customs, and the same training in maritime subjects.”

Joint training efforts

With 40 years of experience training seafarers, ENAP has two roles: as a military academy and as a university. The Colombian Navy trains naval and merchant officers in the unit. At the end of their training period, they join the Navy Reserve meeting all the requirements of the General Maritime Directorate of Colombia to receive nationally and internationally recognized degrees and licenses in navigation.

“Some of the requirements that our students must meet for that entity are one-year-minimum traineeships aboard merchant ships,” said to Diálogo Colombian Navy Commander Roberto Carlos Ángel Sánchez, an ENAP instructor. “What we’re looking to do with the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, which also manages programs for merchant seafarers, is to join forces to send our students out on the USTS Kennedy for practice exercises on board, and in turn, give their students the ability to come train in our program.”

ENAP has 700 students at the cadet level and 140 at the officer level. Exchange students hail from Chile, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and the Dominican Republic.

Training in a ship’s bridge simulator

The USTS Kennedy, ENAP highlighted, is a seaborne extension of the academy back on land. “Their ship is intended exclusively for education and training purposes,” Cmdr. Sánchez said. “It’s a resource for ongoing exercises for their students.”

The U.S. ship’s crew had the opportunity to experience the Colombian Naval Academy’s bridge simulator. Identical to a ship’s space in structure, it has a 301-degree view and simulates different navigational situations in and out of any port in the world.

Aboard the simulator, students put their knowledge into practice and demonstrate their leadership abilities. They train on everything related to navigational procedures and maneuvers, either on their own or accompanied by other ships. They also simulate emergencies at sea. The tool allows to evaluate a crew’s response and those in charge of controlling the ship’s movements.

“To be sure, it’s not 100 percent realistic, but the platform fools the human body in such a way that it makes you experience the extreme conditions of a real-world moment,” Cmdr. Sánchez explained. “It’s a more economical training tool. For any naval academy, the operational costs of taking a ship out just to train the crew are high.”

After four days of academic and cultural exchanges, the USTS Kennedy crew headed to Jamaica and on to the Bahamas before returning to its base in Boston, Massachusetts. Both schools now await final clearance from the Colombian Navy’s high command and its U.S. counterparts to initiate the reciprocity accord provided for in the exchange agreement.

“If we send students to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, we have to be able to receive their students too,” Cmdr. Sánchez concluded. “We’re both interested in making our professors and students more mobile to improve our processes of internationalizing higher education.”