Western Maritime Instituteby www.dieselduck.net

Western Maritime Institute

A new maritime school is born

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I have been enthusiastically following the unfolding story of Maritime Education Associates' vision of a new maritime school in western Canada, on Vancouver Island. I wrote several pieces for my blog, The Monitor, and I thought it would be nice to bring them all under one "roof" here, and add the many pictures I have taken of the developing facilities in Nanaimo, BC.


Western Maritime Institute sets up shop on Vancouver Island
Feb 2008, The Monitor, Martin Leduc

Well he has done it. Capt Bob Kitching has closed the deal and Canada has a new maritime training facility called "Western Maritime Institute". I was excited to hear about this new endeavour back in November, as it represents a great investment in our maritime community, and allows people to access training without having to spend an absurd amount of money in related housing and traveling expenses as it is now in Vancouver, where the principal maritime school in western Canada is situated.

I spoke with Capt. Kitching, by phone in late November 2007, he stated that an offer had been made on the recently close Waterloo Elementary School, near the Nanaimo Regional Airport, in the area know as Timberlands. The compact facility is set in a rural area between Nanaimo and Ladysmith on Vancouver Island, with easy access to the ferries, bus, train, and of course the airport. The campus is located in a flat slightly wooded area, surrounded by an older housing subdivision. It is about 10 minutes south of Nanaimo just off the main highway, and about one hour north of Victoria, with plenty of room for parking and future growth.

The deal was finalized in mid December and possession of the property was in early January 2008. There is already a couple classes running out of the building, with clean up and modifications well underway. Several shipping containers are already on the property with plans to erect them into a ship mock up for marine firefighting simulation.

I am located just minutes from the campus, and excited for our community as a whole, not just the maritime industry. I believe there is a need for this facility on Vancouver Island to serve the west and the arctic region and certainly it is commendable for Capt Kitching to have the vision and balls to pull it off, so kudos goes out to him and his team. Since it is so close to my home, I am sure you will be hearing more about this place in the future.

In the mean time, below is an article that I found in the local (non marine) magazine, Take 5, about the new maritime school and some pictures of the site, shortly after possession.

Looking North from main parking area

Looking west

Looking south

Ever thought of going to sea?
A new school in Timberlands is about to make it happen
By Rob FINKERTON, Take 5 Magazine

An exciting new educational institution is opening in our area. Those of us in the marine industry know that to take schooling for training as a deckhand, a certificate of competency as a navigating officer or a Marine Emergency Duties (MED) course involved going to Camosun College in Victoria or the Pacific Marine Training (PMT) campus in North Vancouver. The resulting transportation and housing costs in the cities made this an expensive commitment. In February the Western Marine Institute (WMI) working in conjunction with Malaspina University College will open in the former Waterloo Elementary school in the Timberlands area.

The Western Marine Institute aim is to eventually offer all courses taught at PMT. This is a very ambitious undertaking. MED courses require a pool large enough to launch a lifeboat from gravity davits and life rafts from a slewing overhead davit as well as a facility to teach marine firefighting. Timberland residents will be pleased to learn that smoky grease (galley) and oil (engine room) fires are now prohibited by law at training facilities. These fires are simulated with gasoline and burn cleanly.

Captain R.C.E. (Bob) Kitching, the drive behind this enterprise, told me that 38% of students who study at PMT come from Vancouver Island. His new location is not the only way he intends to make marine education easier for Island people. Courses will be scheduled to suit the students. For example, Fishing Master courses will not interfere with herring season and Watchkeeping Mate courses will begin after summer when BC Ferries employees can get time off. As instructors will work a full 40 hour week, courses that take 12 weeks at PMT campus will take seven weeks at WMI. If a company, anywhere in Western Canada or the Arctic wants a group of employees to take a course, WMI will send their Coast Guard approved instructors to them, saving huge transportation and accommodation costs.

A revised Canada Shipping Act came into force in 2001. Transport Canada now requires every person operating a commercial vessel of any size to hold the appropriate certificate. Small harbour vessels, commercial fish boats and even the Ladysmith harbour tour boat operators must have certificated people. There is also a shortage of qualified deckhands for the tow boat and ferry fleet.

The new training facility on Hallberg Road, near the Timberlands Pub will be refitted in the next few months and will open in February with limited courses. Bridge Watchman program, MED A I, A2 and A3 and Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boat (old MED B 1) will start right away. Advanced Fire Fighting (old MED B2) and STCW Basic Safety (old MED Al & B2) and MED for Senior Officers (old MED C & D) are in the development stages and should be ready later this year. This involves building the pool capable of holding a lifeboat and the mock-up of a ship's superstructure for firefighting. Fishing Master, Master Limited (under and over 60 gross tons) and Small Vessel Operators Proficiency Certificate for vessels under 5 gross tons will be offered.

Basic Skill Training for 4th Class Engineers is available and Watchkeeping Engineering courses will be offered as demand requires them.

Accreditation is pending for the new 150 ton Master certificate, Watchkeeping Mate and the 500 and 3000 ton Master certificates. Simulated Electronic Navigation Ltd. will be offered with the full SEN and ECDIS expected in the future. On-line courses will also be available. All these are Canadian Domestic Certificates that are valid in Canadian and U.S. coastal waters.

Captain Kitching is justifiably proud of this enterprise and speaks of his instructors as an "incredible group of extremely well qualified mariners". He invites you to pay a visit and have a chat at 3519 Hallberg Road. Check out the website at www.maritimeed.com or contact the Western Maritime Institute at 250 245 4455, Email info@maritimeed.com.

We welcome Captain Kitching to the community and wish him success in this intrepid venture.


Capt. Bob Kitching - at the helm
By Rob FINKERTON, Take 5 Magazine

Many mariners have probably met or have been taught by the man behind this new marine institute. Captain R.C.E. (Bob) Kitching went to sea at fourteen years old as an apprentice in the Royal Navy on HMS Worcester. Two years later he left "if - navy and signed on with the British India Steam Navigation Company and eventually acquired his certificate as a Foreign Going Master. While working for the South Africa Marine Corporation as Chief Officer, his Captain had a heart attack and Bob, promoted to Captain, took the ship from the Persian Gulf to England.

He came to Canada in 1967 and worked ashore for Seaspan, Alaska Cruise Lines, Vancouver Wharves, Port Supervisor and VP of Transport for Labrador Lineboard, a Newfoundland company and Chief Executive for the Port of Prince Rupert. In 1990 he started teaching advanced courses at PMTI . At the same time he commuting to Nottingham, England where he received a Masters Degree in Navigational Technologies in 1994.

Captain Kitching retired as head of the Pacific Marine Training Campus in 2000 and started his own company, the Maritime Educational Association (MEA) with another respected teacher, Captain Brian Silvester. Captain Silvester has recently retired. Captain Kitching lives with his wife in Nanaimo.


No lack of vision or enthusiasm at WMI
May 2009, The Monitor, Martin Leduc

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 (see above). 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 signalled 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 enrolment 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.

The school is located at 3519 Hallberg Road, the phone number is 250 245 4455, Email info@maritimeed.com.

The above pictures were taken in October 2008, showing the dramatic changes and updating to the property and buildings. Photos by Martin Leduc
The above pictures were taken in March 2009, showing the new training tank for lifeboat, liferaft survival training, and the new classrooms for fire training, with the building of the ship mock up well under way. Photos by Martin Leduc
Above, is Google Maps' view of the property, before possession (new tank and fire training mock up not visible)

Here's a 2009 presentation by WMI to the regional government, in regards to their expansion plans for housing on site.

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