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Cruise line entices maritime academy students with exciting careers

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. grabbed the attention of potential job seekers attending Lowell J. Mortimer Maritime Academy’s second annual maritime conference, an event which brings together the industry’s stakeholders – education and training professionals, maritime cadets, employers, port operators and others interested in exploring local, regional and international issues impacting the sector.

Showcasing the cruise line as a place of great opportunity for young, motivated individuals, Gregory Purdy, Royal Caribbean International senior vice president of marine operations, on Thursday, October 18 shared what it takes to operate a company with 540 ports of call around the world, seven brands and 60 ships (with another 18 on order) and how that company approaches ocean management and drives growth in an complex, ever-changing environment.

“I really do think there’s something about the sea that’s in your blood that you feel drawn to the sea and you pursue the sea,” said Purdy, a veteran of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), who joined the Royal Caribbean International brand in 2001 to manage the company’s marine safety training program.

His responsibilities grew to encompass fleet compliance assurance for the company’s marine safety, security and environmental programs. A former ship captain, Purdy is primarily responsible for the safe operation of a 25-strong fleet, including the world’s largest cruise ships.

“Here, in The Bahamas, where you have such beautiful inspiration constantly for the sea, why pick any other career or industry?” said the New Mexico native who grew up two days’ driving distance away from the nearest ocean.

With 60 percent of students entering 12th grade set to work in a career that has yet to be established and existing professions projected to undergo radical technological changes, Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd said the maritime industry is hardly likely to become obsolete, as the majority of the earth (70 percent) is covered with water.

“This is where the expansive and varied employment opportunities are available to affect the growing swathe of Bahamians, young people who are leaving school every year,” said Lloyd, who pointed out The Bahamas ranked last in the region in tertiary education, with only 20 percent of the nation’s 8,000 high school students pursuing university degrees and post-secondary training.

“We want to invite young people to consider advancement in their training and education. We know that [of] the 80 percent of them who seek employment, most do not know of the great opportunity that await them in this maritime industry.”

With his tales of life at sea – witnessing an active lava-flowing volcano in Alaska, basking in the beauty of snow-capped mountains in Hawaii and captaining a hurricane-fleeing ship – Purdy said it’s hard to beat the excitement and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities a career in maritime offers.

Highlighting changes in the industry which have seen ships become super-sized, the cruise line official said with larger ships RCL brings even safer vessels to the market, although that’s not to say size is the only thing that matters.

“It’s also about the guest experiences and cruise ship offerings,” said Purdy, who noted that ships are programmed to last 30 years, but with technology, cruise lines could keep ships as long as they like, as long as they remain efficient, operating profitably in the market. In fact, size benefits some older vessels, allowing them entry into smaller ports such as Havana and Bermuda.

As to what’s on the horizon for RCL, Purdy said the cruise giant is working on a new class of ship – the larger, faster, more fuel-efficient and technologically advanced Icon, due out 2022.

Speaking to the conference theme “Vision 2030, Ocean Governance and Ocean Management”, the senior vice president highlighted the vital role The Bahamas plays in advancing the industry. RCL was the platinum sponsor of the conference held at Melia Nassau Beach resort.

“We wouldn’t be able to build the ships that we build without the support of the Bahamas Maritime Authority. Many people don’t know it but they (the Bahamas representative to the International Maritime Organization) have one of the largest voices at the IMO, where we develop regulations for ships in the future,” he shared.

Not only a powerful voice with the United Nation’s (UN) London-based International Maritime Organization, Purdy said the jurisdiction is also well-respected by the USCG.

As for The Bahamas’ 50-year relationship with RCL, the senior vice president said that’s growing stronger by the day as The Bahamas remains a preferred destination, so much so that the cruise line is able to offer an itinerary with The Bahamas as the only port of call.

For its part, The Bahamas benefits to the tune of $300 million annually through numerous linkages: the development of its private island in the Berry Islands, Coco Cay; its 40 percent ownership in the Grand Bahama Shipyard, spending by its 30 million guests, crew spend and head tax.

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