Remarks by Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie
at the Launch of the First Phase of “Back to the Sea” Maritime Industry Training Programme
Wednesday, 14th August, 2019
Village Cay Conference Room
Mr John Samuel, Chairman of the HLSCC
Mrs Judith Vanterpool, President of the HLSCC
Marine Industry stakeholders
Specially invited guests
Members of the Media
A pleasant good morning and God’s Blessings to each and every one of you, and thank you for joining with us as we launch our first phase of the “Back to the Sea” programme.
Today marks a milestone in our journey to transform the Virgin Islands.
Today, we take another step towards taking command of our destiny through the empowerment of our people.
Today, we begin the process of restoring hope and opportunity, while equipping our people – especially the younger ones – to grab hold and climb the ladder of success.
We are island people. We are surrounded by ocean. We interact with the water in our daily routines. This has been the way for generations as our forefathers navigated the seas around us, fishing to feed an emerging nation and sailing over to our neighbours to conduct trade.
Sea-faring is in our blood. Therefore, we have it in our DNA to be among the best maritime professionals in the region, if not the world.
The BVI is already the sailing capital of the world, and together, we will claim our rightful place as the Mecca of the global marine industry. And in this process, all Virgin Islanders who want to have careers in the marine industry will be given the opportunity, support and encouragement to do so.
My friends, the marine sector is one of the BVI’s most valuable assets, but its potential is untapped and under-exploited.
Commercial maritime activity is already huge in the BVI. It spans small tourist crafts to large shipping vessels, as well as the marinas, docks, ports and infrastructure, and the services such as hospitality and technical services, that support them. It is an area that has a very wide scope – much wider than many people realize.
While we talk about tourism and financial services as economic pillars, we overlook the fact that the BVI’s marine sector is an economic powerhouse, driving sailing tourism and supporting our other goods and services sectors.
And while our marine industry is big business, it has the potential to grow even bigger.
As a renowned top sailing destination and a stable jurisdiction, the BVI is one of the ideal places to register a vessel.
The British Virgin Islands Shipping Registry (VISR) is a Category One General Register of British Ships within the Red Ensign Group. This means the VI Shipping Registry can register ships of unlimited tonnage and size, enabling ship owners to take advantage of the benefits available to BVI registered ships. These include recognition as a “British Ship”, use of the Red Ensign flag which is synonymous with quality shipping with the very highest standards, British Diplomatic and Consular support, and Royal Navy protection.
The VI Shipping Registry offers very competitive registration and annual maintenance fees and the VI Shipping Registry certificates are recognised worldwide.
So, we have a lot to offer customers in this market, and we have competitive advantage in this sector.
But if we want to grow the membership of our shipping register and boost the industry, then one of the critical assets we will need is qualified persons to perform the various roles that come with an expanding industry.
One of the things that vessel owners look for when choosing a port of call or a home port is trained and experienced human resource support on the ground and on the water. Vessels of various sizes and classes would be attracted to the BVI if the owners know they can find a full crew here – including roles such as deck hands, engineers, stewards and chefs.
There is a demand for these roles. And as we step up our work in growing the marine sector, there will be even more demand, and that means more opportunities for you, our people.
My friends, the marine world holds a large, diverse range of career opportunities within itself.
There is a perception, I am aware, that marine jobs are limited to boat captain and deck hands. But I want to let our young people know that there is a lot more to this field.
Allow me to gloss over some of the careers in the marine sector.
- Boat mechanic – Responsibilities include repairing, installation of required machinery, and carrying out periodic upkeep and restoration of boats. The average salary of a boat mechanic in the United States ranges from $27,800 to $45,390 per year.
- Maritime Consultant – These are professionals who provide advice and suggest better trade routes and address other necessary shipping concerns to individuals and corporations engaged in the marine business to help them boost, advance and further their business positively. The national average salary for a marine consultant in the United States is $65,372 per year.
- Marine Engineer – This is a technical field that deals with maintenance and repair of the ship’s machinery. According to Glassdoor job website, the average salary for a marine engineer can range from $64,000 to $96,000 per year, depending on experience and domain knowledge.
- Naval Architect - Naval architecture is the study of science and technology of design, construction, development, usage and repair of all kinds of ships, boats and other sea vessels, along with permanent shore structures. According to Career Explorer website, Naval Architects earn an average yearly salary of $92,560. Wages typically start from $65,090 and go up to $148,950 per year.
These are just a few of the career opportunities in the marine sector that can prove to be quite rewarding for our citizens. They are jobs that are in demand at present in the Virgin Islands and neighbouring marine destinations, and which services are often imported. As our marine sector grows, no doubt, there will be an even greater demand for persons to fill positions like these.
The Department of Labour and Workforce Development has recommitted to being particularly vigilant in ensuring that suitably qualified BVI citizens will be given the preference for marine jobs.
But I want you to note that the employment generation capacity and the business opportunities that will be stimulated by this programme are not limited to the maritime sector and marine jobs.
The beneficiaries of this programme will be qualified and equipped for marine jobs. Some may be able to go a step further and become self-employed and even hire their own trainees and staff.
The availability of human resources can inspire investors – and I would say that I would love to see local investors – to open marine businesses, or to fund marine businesses, that would utilize these trained and skilled personnel.
Existing marine companies that hire graduates from this programme will also benefit from improved performance of their businesses as the new hires will raise service standards.
But on the second level, as the marine industry grows, the influx of vessels, owners, crew and other personnel will stimulate activity in other areas. These persons will have a demand for food, beverages, clothing, marine supplies, long- and short-term accommodation, transport, entertainment, and much more. This means more business for the non-marine sector and job creation in those areas as well.
This is one way in which your government proposes to develop new economic pillars while strengthening the existing economic drivers.
So, the marine training initiative should not be viewed only as something that pertains to, or that will benefit, only those persons who have direct interests in the marine industry.
That is why it is important for all patriotic Virgin Islanders and residents to support this initiative.
There are some marine industry stakeholders who have already stepped forward as partners in this exercise, and I hope that in time good corporate citizens will join on and demonstrate their support for the trainees and apprentices.
One stakeholder that is doing tremendous work in equipping our people for the job market and the demands of our growing economy is the H Lavity Stoutt Community College.
The HLSCC is taking the lead role in coordinating some aspects of this marine training programme. In so doing, the HLSCC, under the leadership of Chairman John Samuel and President Judith Vanterpool and their team, is repositioning itself to fulfil its mandate to be the Centre for Excellence for Marine Studies within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
Registration for the Back to the Sea marine training programme commences on August 21. Prospective trainees will be required to complete a registration of interest form online, indicating the programme they wish to pursue, the institution and the level of assistance needed.
Applicants would also need to apply directly to the institution of their choice and meet the institution’s entry requirements.
To assist persons who may have difficulty in reaching the HLSCC to register and who may have problems accessing the online register of interest portal, a face-to-face registration exercise will be conducted in each district. A schedule of the days and venues for this exercise will be published soon and prospective trainees should be vigilant in looking out for this information.
Government’s assistance to persons would be extended once the applicant has been accepted into an acceptable accredited Maritime training programme. All successful applicants will be exposed to a one-week orientation boot camp to equip them for the working environment.
Assistance will, however, be rendered in a two-phase approach.
The first phase commences immediately with the first cohort of trainees beginning training in September 2019. This involves re-engaging with the HLSCC and other training providers to support programmes in Maritime education.
The government will be assisting the HLSCC with the necessary resources it needs to fulfil its mandate as the regional Centre for Excellnce for Marine Studie. Additionally, the government will be partnering with the stakeholders of the industry who will provide the opportunities for additional training, employment and business networking environments.
In the second phase, the government will provide additional resources come January 2020 to support trainees in the maritime industry who are accepted to go further afield to study.
The launch of the register of interest portal for the Maritime Training Programme in the coming week will better inform the government of the wider training needs and intentions of prospective marine industry professionals.
In the meantime, government will continue to work with the Shipping Registry, Port Authority and other requisite authorities in building partnerships and the necessary resources to regulate the requisite standards of the Maritime industry.
I want to encourage persons to contact the HLSCC for information on courses offered and to submit your applications to the college, as well as to complete the online registration of interest form.
Let me say that your government is serious about transforming the BVI, creating hope and generating opportunities to improve the quality of lives of our citizens and to help them to build sustainable futures for themselves and their families.
Global challenges and pressures that are bearing down on this Territory demand that our people must brace ourselves for impact.
We must prepare ourselves to be able to take care of ourselves.
And the way to do that is to develop a strong diversified economy, to equip our people with knowledge and skills to not only survive but to thrive, and to do this quickly.
That is why your government is prepared to back our aspiring marine professionals, and why this programme is about more than creating jobs. This marine training programme is about charting a new course for the BVI and opening new horizons for our generations to come.
I want to urge all interested persons to register, and to make the most of this opportunity. Please take it seriously.
To our national stakeholders, the time to show your patriotism is now.
And to the people of this Territory, let us come together and work together to awaken the potential of this great Territory, and move in one direction – forward.
I thank you.