Admissions - Grant helps MMA pay for simulator system refuel training ship
With a $1 million grant from the sale of obsolete vessels in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, Massachusetts Maritime Academy plans to upgrade its simulation system and chip into its training ship's refueling bill.
The academy, like each of the nation's five other state maritime schools and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., was awarded the grant Thursday from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Under the National Maritime Heritage Act, the department's Maritime Administration is required to devote 25 percent of profits from the vessel sales to the academies for "facility and training ship maintenance, repair and modernization, and for the purchase of simulators and fuel."
The law was passed in 1994, but Adm. Richard Gurnon said the academy never anticipates the funding, which depends upon the federal government culling obsolete ships and selling them to be scrapped and recycled.
The most recent grants have come in two-year increments to the Taylors Point campus, with about $700,000 in funding in 2012 and $500,000 in 2010, Gurnon said.
"We don't expect any of it, because it is quite random," said Gurnon, president of the Buzzards Bay academy. "It's always money from heaven."
Gurnon plans to spend $250,000 in grant funding to upgrade the academy's "360 simulator" — a windowless room inside the recently constructed library where 15 projectors create a moving panorama of currents, sea gulls and other ships coming into harbor. But the system, which Gurnon likens to a fancy XBox 360, is not currently equipped to train students in dynamic positioning — an autopilot technology that accounts for waves and currents to keep drilling ships and supply boats perfectly in place.
With a boom in offshore drilling, the market for supply boats to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico has seen marked growth in recent years. And experience with dynamic positioning will give Massachusetts Maritime students a "leg up on the competition" in the expanding field, Gurnon said.
"It's really ironic that ships from the '50s and '60s will help the education of mariners in this century."
In a prepared statement Thursday, U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Mass., praised the academy for its "excellent job placement rate in good-paying jobs in emerging fields."
"Contributing to the further success of this institution is a great use of the funds from the sale of old vessels," said Keating, who lives in Bourne.
On its Caribbean-bound sea term voyage, the T.S. Kennedy recently refueled in Norfolk, Va., at a cost of $900,000. Although the academy budgeted for that expense and future refueling, Gurnon said the grant would defray those costs and possibly help the academy with the construction of dormitories, an upgrade to the dining hall or redoing the campus roadways.
"It's going to be another million to fill her up," Gurnon said of the cost of refueling the training ship when it returns after the six-week sea term. "I don't lack in places to spend it."