The Arab Academy for Science Technology and Maritime Transport in Sharjah (AASTS) has recently arranged the first “Marine E-Talk” to connect its students with decision makers and key professionals in the maritime sector. Such initiative is part of AASTS’ continuous efforts to adopt new methods that connect students with the maritime sector, which is one of key sectors that support global economy and trade, especially in combating the effects of the spread of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19). The platform provided students with further information about academic studies and future careers. The first “Marine E-Talk” hosted H.E Dr. Ismail Abdel Ghaffar Ismail Farag, President of the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport; H.E Eng. Hessa Al Malek, Executive Director of Maritime Transport at the Federal Transport Authority – Land and Maritime (FTA); and Captain Abdulla Al Hayyas, Director of Ports at FTA.
The first “Marine E-Talk” discussed several key topics including competitiveness of the maritime sector regionally and globally; current challenges in pursuing maritime care; career and training opportunities; in addition to government initiatives to empower next generation of maritime professionals.
His Excellency Dr. Ismail Abdel Ghaffar Ismail Faraj, President of the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport, said, “Remote learning is a new experience for all universities and educational institutions around the world. Accordingly, it has many positive effects; the most important of which is stimulating creative thinking and facilitating communications and knowledge transfer. This aligns with the nature of working in the maritime sector, where creative thinking is a necessity to be in this exceptional profession.”
He added, “We realize that the educational process is not limited to textbooks and academic curricula. The idea of launching the “Marine E-Talk” was to broaden horizons for students and employ the capabilities of remote learning tools. Thus, we add new capabilities for our academic performance, and provide added value for students to motivate them to be more creative and think outside the box while they continue their academic studies.”
Commitment of the leadership
H.E Eng. Hessa Al Malek, Executive Director of Maritime Transport at the Federal Transport Authority – Land and Maritime, said, “The Academy’s initiative is a distinguished step to enhance the practical aspect of the educational process, despite all the challenges resulting from the outbreak of novel Coronavirus (Covid-19). As a government organisation, we consider our participation in this initiative a commitment to support and empower the national maritime economy. Young people who are currently studying maritime specialties are the future leaders who will ensure sustainability of the UAE’s maritime sector, which is one of the economic pillars.”
Al Malek added, “We took part in the “Marine E-Talk” to help students explore future opportunities from a professional point of view, open up prospects for them to explore the possibilities of career development in the maritime sector, and encourage them to prepare for job requirements, both scientifically and academically.”
Integrating education and the industry
Elaborating on AASTS’ goals from the initiative, Dr. Hisham Afifi, Advisor to the President of the Academy and in charge of Khorfakkan’s branch, emphasized, “The nature of maritime education depends on pairing academic teaching and practical implementation across all levels and academic years. We thought that students’ physical absence from the Academy will somehow affect the practical side, but we have discovered that distance education and virtual communication tools provide unlimited opportunities. We have started to take advantage of the unprecedented capabilities of these tools.”
He added: “I must commend the leadership of the Federal Transport Authority – Land and Maritime for their outstanding response and participation in our first Virtual Maritime Forum. This success will be a model for all maritime leaders in the government and private sectors to take part in this initiative, which we intend to organise regularly. The maritime sector is at the frontline when it comes to combating the effects of Covid-19, by securing food and medical supplies to the whole world during these exceptional circumstances. That’s why, classification of maritime professions is being reconsidered to be among the most critical globally.”
Dr. Ahmed Youssef, Associate Dean of the Maritime Transport Technology College, AASTS, commented, “Being at home and studying in isolation most of the time may cause students to be bore and lack interest, which may negatively affect their academic progress. However, the Academy’s distance education and virtual communication tools help them overcome these obstacles and add an unprecedented new dimension to the educational process. The Academy will continue to adopt the e-learning and remote communication tools that were introduced after social distancing was implemented. AASTS will be one of the global pioneers in adopting this dual approach in maritime education.”
He also added, “AASTS succeeded in registering more than 38 to join the second semester, bringing the total number of students to 125. The Academy offers two specialisations in the first phase: Maritime Transport Technology, which has two disciplines; port operations and offshore operations. The major will qualify graduates with a bachelor degree and a second mate certificate of competency. The Department of Marine Engineering will qualify students with a bachelor degree and third engineer certificate of competency. Both disciplines qualify graduates to work on commercial ships and offshore vessels.”
AASTS also seeks to attract professionals working in maritime companies in the UAE who wish to take specialised training courses as part of its professional development and continuing education programmes. AASTS provides maritime passport renewal, and cooperates with the training departments of shipping companies to design specialised training programmes in various maritime technical and administrative areas, benefitting from the Academy’s state-of-the-art simulators