Inordinate delay in Kochi becoming home to India’s second maritime university

The State government is considering the possibility of setting up a maritime university to take advantage of Kerala’s long-standing maritime traditions and its status as one of India’s biggest sources of trained seafarers.

The maritime university “is going to be a reality if not immediately, in the near future”, Department of Port sources said on Tuesday pointing to a school of thinking in the department that the boom in maritime education in the country had bypassed the State.

Minister for Ports and Excise K. Babu told The Hindu on Tuesday that he was open to the idea of the State setting up a maritime university on its own because it held out the possibility of opening up a lot of job opportunities.

Mr. Babu was fielding questions on the inordinate delay in Kochi becoming home to India’s second maritime university more than five years after Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture recommended that five such universities be set up in the country. Kochi was one of the cities highlighted in the report.

The Minister said the State Cabinet had directed the Ernakulam District Collector in 2011 to identify a suitable parcel of land for the Indian Maritime University. The move was made after the foundation for the Kochi campus of Indian Maritime University (IMU) was laid in September that year.

However, nothing has moved forward since then though Chief Minister Oommen Chandy offered to bring Goa and Karnataka under the jurisdiction of what was then proposed as a Central University as a gesture reflecting the institution’s national character.

IMU has a campus in Kochi offering various courses, including DNS leading to B.Sc. Nautical Sciences; B.Sc. in ship-building; PG Diploma in Marine Engineering and MBA courses in Port and Shipping and Logistics.

Kochi has five institutions offering different marine courses recognised by the Directorate General of Shipping from among 135 institutions across India.

“About 70 per cent of the students undergoing maritime courses in some of the metros hail from Kerala”, said a veteran in the field of maritime education. He said Kerala had sufficient expertise in the area but the resources have to be coordinated under a single institution like a university, he said.

Former Shipping Secretary K. Mohandas said it was the right time to get moving towards the goal of a maritime university for Kerala. He said the current lull in the shipping industry was expected to end in about two years.

If a university is set up now, the first graduates will pass out of the institution at about the time the current gloom in shipping lifts.

Mr. Mohandas, however, called for a global perspective in maritime training. Narrow views would not help because shipping industry was a global phenomenon and people had to be trained to meet the global standards, he said. “A global and cosmopolitan outlook is what is needed,” he said.

A former member of the Executive Council of Indian Maritime University Jose Paul said a maritime university in Kerala meant that people in Kerala, who have a flair for seafaring, could access quality education. According to his estimate, around 3,000 students from Kerala are taking various marine courses in different parts of India.

A university in Kerala will retain these students here, give them quality education and make maritime education cheaper for them, he added and argued that Kochi had the potential to emerge as a major maritime hub in the world with its international container port and a world-class ship repair facility.

He also said that a university in Kerala would be able to attract foreign students, about 500 of whom were studying in different cities in India.

Director of Kunhali Marakkar School of Marine Engineering under the Cochin University of Science and Technology K.A. Simon said Kerala’s long coastline means that most of its people have a natural talent to sail the seas. Opening up a university could tap these talents, he said.

Union Minister of State for Food and Consumer Affairs K. V. Thomas told The Hindu that he planned to take up the issue of delay in the establishment of the Indian Maritime University in Kochi with the Union Shipping Ministry.

P. Rajeev, MP, had raised the issue of establishment of a maritime university in Kerala in the Rajya Sabha early last month.

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