PORT MANATEE -- Port Manatee is going into the school business.
Starting in 2015, current and future port executives, mariners and other port employees throughout the southeast United States will be able to take classes at Port Manatee to fill in the "education" sections of their resumes. A training facility for port security officers since 2005, the port will begin offering an expanded curriculum next year that could even include a master's degree in maritime business.
The port is joining a movement to bring professional certification to port-industry jobs. It is cooperating with the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and the Maine-based International Association of Maritime and port executives to bring a slate of classes to the port by early next year.
David St. Pierre, Port Manatee's deputy director of security and top security training officer, said that while people working at ports often do go to school to learn their trade, little of that schooling is accredited by the IAMPE. Establishing a training center for port professionals overseen by IAMPE can fill that professional education gap.
Port Manatee already has a head start in port training, having schooled more than 1,000 security officers in the past nine years. To expand its offerings, the port is seeking the right seminars and instructors to offer classes that will appeal. The port plans to seek grant funding for its education program, and could host teachers from Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
"We're almost in a startup situation," said St. Pierre, who was recently named to the IAMPE's board of advisers. "We've jumped in with an organization that's looking to professionalize the field."
Port-oriented education has the potential to be a good income generator. Nationwide, two-day port security training courses typically cost
about $1,000. Port Manatee currently charges $400. Port executives looking to put certified training on their curriculum vitae typically pay about $3,000 for a course that trains them in all aspects of port operations.
"I know we won't lose money," St. Pierre said.
Offering maritime classes goes beyond having another business line. Carlos Buqueras, the port's executive director, said Port Manatee already has a good reputation for its security training. Being known as a national port education center will further boost that reputation.
"This kind of publicity you can't even buy," he said.
The port has not yet studied the potential market for port-oriented classes, but St. Pierre is confident that Port Manatee will attract students. Potential students include management-level port employees, port executives, dock personnel, tugboat operators and current and future mariners.
Class offerings toward a master's degree in maritime business are a long-term goal for a maritime school at Port Manatee.
This is a niche learning population, so it is unlikely that the port would be able to develop a full-time curriculum in any particular discipline in the first year. In the early going, classes would likely rotate between specialties on a weekly basis, St. Pierre said.
The port has experience with its security training program. It also has classroom space, both in a purpose-built facility in its access control building, and in spaces at the port's Intermodal Center.
As an operating import-export seaport, the port can also offer a dockside view to all types of port operations to students attending seminars and classes, Buqueras said.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.