Bob might finally retire; WMI changes ownership

Captain Robert CE Kitching, President, Western Maritime Institute

Western Maritime Institute’s parking lot was full to the brim last week when I went to visit. The institute’s founder, Capt. Bob Kitching states that he’s even had to find parking out on the road on some days. Capt Kitching founded Western Maritime Institute (WMI) back in 2000, on the site of a surplus elementary school, in a semi rural area, south of Nanaimo, BC, on Vancouver Island.

Inside courtyard at WMI

Since those early days, with a steadfast vision and a tremendous amount of work, not to mention personal capital, Bob and his team, have turned this humble elementary school into Canada’s one stop shop for effective maritime career training, a full parking lot is a great testimonial to their success.

The school features a full suite of Marine Emergency Duty (MED) training and facilities, onsite, including the fire training ship mock-up, and a lifeboat davit and tank. In 2013, a new student housing facility was also added; with the airport nearby, it’s arguably one of the best features for us professional mariners looking to do short term upgrade training.

Student housing block at WMI

I was a bit sad when Capt Kitching mentioned that he was finally going to retire. Don’t get me wrong the man certainly deserves it. At a time when most of his contemporaries are well into their retirement years, especially after such a lengthy and diversified career at sea and in maritime education, and a sizable outlay of his retirement fund into WMI, who would blame him. But the thought of losing Capt Kitching’s drive and zeal… really, advocacy for Canadian seafaring to a certain extent, is worrisome to me.

Retirement for Capt Kitching comes in the form of Western Maritime Institute, and all of its facilities and programs, now coming under the roof of Fraser Education Inc, effective March 2015. Capt Kitching will remain the President of WMI to shepherd a smooth transition to the new owners.

One of the classrooms at WMI

Currently offering Transport Canada safety mandate courses and deck officer certification, there is a fresh appetite to expand the program offerings, and the related facilities, with a focus on engineering programs. Being well received within the community, the school has ample grounds to expand so this is very exciting news for professional mariners, and in general, for the future of Marine Engineering professionals in Canada.

I have a feeling Capt Kitching will not just retire “overnight”, but before he puts his feet up, I express my admiration of his success and appreciation of his hard work developing an accessible maritime training facility that benefits professional seafarers, as well as nurture budding careers. Thank you. I take comfort that his legacy will be felt for many years to come in Canada’s maritime community.

Here is the official press release from WMI regarding the change of ownership…

Fraser Education Inc. acquires Western Maritime Institute Inc. 

Robert Prendergast, CEO of Fraser Education, is extremely pleased to announce the completion of the acquisition of Western Maritime Institute. WMI is the first acquisition for Fraser and is the largest private maritime college in Canada.

Captain Bob Kitching, the founder and owner of WMI, will remain in his position as the President of the Maritime Division of Fraser Education. Captain Kitching is a Master Mariner and prior to establishing WMI was the Dean of BCIT’s Pacific Marine Training Institute.

 Some background on WMI

Western Maritime Institute was established in 2000 and moved to its current location in Ladysmith in 2007, and has since added a campus in Steveston (Richmond), while continuing to “bring the classroom” to other locations from Haida Gwaii to Inuvik.

WMI offers courses from one-day MED A3, to courses leading to the Master, 500 Gross Tons Certificate of Competency. We continue to extend our course offering each year and are looking forward to introducing a wider range of engineering courses in the near future.

Accreditations: Transport Canada, Industry Canada, Private Career Training Institutes Agency (PCTIA), BC Education Quality Assurance, DNV GL.

The facilities and courses can be viewed at, on Facebook at and Twitter:

Capt Kitching, showing off the newly constructed student housing in 2013

If you are in the area, I do encourage you to drop by and visit the school and their facilities, say hi to the always approachable Captain Bob Kitching. You can find my previous post and articles on WMI from this site search result… being in my neighborhood, I’ve had a few comments over the years, and its been a real treat to see the development. 

This article has 1 Comment

  1. Bob I am amazed at your success, I was trying to find your address and ran across this article. I think of you often. Hope all is well in the family. I am still nutty as a fruitcake. God Bless all.

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