CALAMBA CITY—Almer Postor’s dream of becoming a seafarer and earning enough for his family now looms larger than ever.
The reason: The opening of a new P1.5-billion maritime school in a sprawling industrial park here where Postor is now enrolled on a scholarship.
Postor is actually among the first batch of students enrolled at the NYK-TDG Maritime Academy (NTMA) whose opening last Friday was graced by President Macapagal-Arroyo and officials of the Japanese government.
NYK stands for Nippon Yusen Kaisha, a Japanese shipping company considered to be the oldest in the world and the largest in Asia.
TDG, or Transnational Diversified Group, is a Filipino-owned company which serves as the local partner of NYK.
Capt. Antonio Dael, dean of the Center for Shipboard Training and Continuing Education at NTMA, said one of the main thrusts of the maritime school is to help poor but intelligent students like Postor fulfill their dreams of becoming successful merchant marine officers.
Dael said the school has a “study now, pay later” plan where students may enroll without having to pay all the tuition up front.
He said the tuition ranges from P70,000 to P75,000 per semester, which includes board and lodging.
He said 90 percent of the 120 students who belong to the first batch of NTMA enrollees had availed themselves of student loans.
Postor, 17, was able to enroll at NTMA because of a scholarship from NYK-Fil Ship Management Inc. (NYK-Fil), one of the biggest manning agencies for seafarers in the country.
Dael said the establishment of the school was actually the brainchild of NYK-Fil, which provides seafarers for NYK.
Located at the foot of scenic Mt. Makiling, the school offers a healthy environment for students.
Aside from the school’s five buildings, it also has a 10-foot deep large swimming pool which allows students to have real-life “on sea activities” like operating a lifeboat.
Dael said because of their commitment to develop highly skilled seafarers, the school installed state-of-the-art equipment to better prepare their students for their shipboard training.
In addition to dummy engine rooms of ships, laboratories and classrooms required in maritime schools, NTMA built a modern bridge which allows students to experience what it is like to navigate a ship.
A bridge is the “cockpit” of large sea vessels where the navigation room for the captain and his crew is located.
Situated on the third floor of the Mariner’s Building, a building built to look like a ship, the mock bridge has five projector screens which move as the student navigates the ship.
First of its kind
Dael said their bridge simulator is the first of its kind in the country.
“In an instant, a student can navigate through the Singapore Strait or any other location in the world. It is as close as real bridges,” he explained.
The school also has a fully operational engine room, speech laboratories, radar room, computer room and 12 classrooms.
Designed to be a boarding school, NTMA has 90 rooms which can accommodate 360 students at a time.
He said unlike other schools, NTMA will limit its students to only 120 per school year.
As a four-year college course, students are required to take up three years of academic schooling and one year of shipboard training.
At present, the school offers the BS Marine Transportation course for those who want to be ship captains and BS Marine Engineering for cadets aspiring to become chief engineers.
Dael said apart from their academic load, students enrolled at NTMA are also required to spend two-hour reading session in the library.
On school days, the cadets should likewise complete a two-hour duty as guards.
Dael said this is to discipline the students and prepare them for the life of a seafarer.
He said NYK had also ordered the construction of four ships just for the use of their students.
A few years back, NYK-Fil saw the increasing demand for seamen as a result of the construction of new sea vessels worldwide.
Dael explained that the imminent lack of ship personnel was based on a five-year study done by the Baltic International Maritime Council (BIMCO), the world’s biggest organization of private shipping companies.
He said for NYK alone, there would be 10,000 new job offerings as the company’s current fleet of 750 ships would be increased by around 130 ships.
This means that students of NTMA are assured of jobs after graduation, he said.
“Shipping remains to be the most popular, most practical and safest mode of transporting goods today,” he said.
And Dael said the prospects for a better life for Filipino seafarers were high because “Filipinos remain to be the nationality of choice of foreign shipping lines.” (See Global Pinoy, Page A23.)
As of 2005, Filipinos accounted for more than 28 percent of all maritime officers employed by shipping companies.
A far second were Russians who make up 6.8 percent of the total seafarers in the world.
Dael said records from government agencies showed that Filipino seamen remitted more than $1.7 billion last year.
He said only the demand for nurses topped seafarers among the opportunities open to Filipinos abroad.
A starting third mate (the lowest rank of merchant marine officer) receives an average monthly salary of $1,500 to $1,800.
A ship captain, on the other hand, gets $4,000 to $6,000 a month.
Postor said he still could not believe that he’s only a few years away from achieving his life-long dream.
The school will be conducting entrance exams for the second batch of NTMA students on Oct. 27. Interested individuals may contact the school at 049-549-0923 and 049-549-0933.