No lack of vision or enthusiasm at WMI

I am not a betting man, usually, but I would venture a bet to say that a 25 year old would have a tough time keeping up with Capt. Bob Kitching, pushing 70 years young. I finally caught up to him at his office at the Western Maritime Institute, outside Nanaimo, BC in March 2009.

I did a piece on this new facility about a year ago. At the time, the old Waterloo Elementary School situated on 6 acres parcel of land, had just been purchased by Capt Kitching. Armed with his own money and no shortage of vision, he embarked on a full fledged assault on what as grown to be accepted as a training ideals in Canada. Since it is very near where I live, and the idea is also near my heart, I have been routinely keeping tabs of the developments.

It’s been an amazing transformation for the facility, and on September 11, 2008, the official opening was held. This milestone did not appear to have signaled a peak in activity; quite to the contrary, since then, a large water tank as been installed for lifeboats launching and work continues full speed on the shipboard firefighting mock up. Both are due for their official opening, and their first MED classes, to take place in late Spring 2009.

This means that the Western Maritime Institute will be a true, one-stop, training facilities for ships crew and deck officers, looking to start and upgrade their maritime skills.

The Maritime Education Associates (MEA), the umbrella organization behind the new school, and led by Capt Kitching, is no stranger to educating young and seasoned mariners alike. The idea of taking training to the students, wherever they may be located, has been carried out since the beginning of MEA in the seventies, as I found out in our talk. 90% of the training up to now, was done at the student’s site, using numerous associates of extensive skills and background, to deliver the course content. With the development of the new facility, many new courses will be offered and Cat Kitching expects that 50% of courses offered by MEA, will be deliver at the Nanaimo (Cassidy) facility. The “on the road” delivery of maritime education continues to grow, with courses offered all over Western Canada, and the arctic regions as well.

The courses offered at the school and “on the road” are primarily for deck certificates, as well as entry level rating training. A few years ago, MEA teamed up with Malaspina College, based in Nanaimo, to deliver the Alternative Path Engineering Training. This training includes machining, electrical and welding skills training to satisfy the new licensing requirements for Transport Canada fourth class marine engineering license, without having to be a full time student in a Marine Engineering program. The institute and the college (now VIU) continue to offer this program, but aspire to develop a more comprehensive engineering program within a few years.

In late 2008, Western Maritime Institute forged formal relations with the newly created Vancouver Island University, formerly Malaspina College. The relationship offer much to the two entities, as well as the student. The student benefits from a recognized process of enrollment which can sometimes be daunting. The Institute benefits from a much broader exposure and VIU gains by a greater course offering and gaining students. All in all a beneficial move to all concerned and to the area as a whole.

Capt Kitching hopes to expand the training offered by MEA from the MEDs and basic nautical training currently offered, to a master 3000 ton (equivalent to Watchkeeping Mate level), and begin offering engineering license courses. He also expects to be developing the courses into an internet based distance delivery model, which he expects to be available in about three years.

In the near future, Capt Kitching expects that the lodging facilities adjacent to the school will be open in early 2010. He goes on to state that MEA is excited at the prospect of building a state of the art modern simulator facility, probably within two years, for both the deck and engine room departments at the institute. He states that interest from several large shipping companies has already materialized and discussion were underway to tailor a suitable facility for industry.

In a time when leadership and conviction seems some rare, it is refreshing to see such enthusiastic commitment to the maritime industry in Canada. I applaud not only the vision, but the actual carrying out of it. In developing these seemingly insurmountable tasks, it is no wonder Capt Kitching seems to have a youthful spark in his eye when he talks about MEA and the Western Maritime Institute.

If you are interested in visiting this new and growing facility, the Vancouver Island Branch of the Canadian Institute of Marine Engineering will be holding their annual up island meeting at the school, on Saturday May 30th, at 11:30 hrs; please click here for further details.

You can read more about the joint venture with VIU here, and here, you can read a local media article on the official opening of the school. You can view WMI full course offerings here, and even register for the classes online ! You can find MEA official website here, although they have no current information on their new facility as of May 2009. Check out the older post on this topic and see the pictures from back then, a mere year ago.

The school is located at 3519 Hallberg Road, the phone number is 250 245 4455, Email

Pictures above are of the Western Maritime Institute, the new training facility of Marine Education Associates situated on the outskirts of Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia. Pictures were taken late 2008, early 2009.You can view more pictures of the work done, by clicking here.

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