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Saudi NMA a critical component of Kingdom’s maritime development

Photo: Saudi NMA Linkedin page Saudi National Maritime Academy simulator
Saudi Arabia’s maritime sector is at a significant juncture, underlining the importance of the robust education and training programmes its National Maritime Academy (NMA) offers.

In the fourth in a series of interviews ahead of the Saudi Maritime Congress NMA director, Turki Al Shehri, spoke to Seatrade Maritime News about developments at the academy.

“This is a critical time for the Saudi maritime sector as we look towards its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and also build on the opportunities with emerging new technologies and pioneering ways of delivering maritime training and education as we strive to deliver the ambitions of Saudi Vision 2030 and beyond,” Al Sheri said.

The King Salman International Complex for Maritime Industries and Services (KSIC) alone is expected to contribute $17bn to Saudi Arabia’s GDP, deliver import substitution of $12bn, and provide 80,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2030. The Kingdom’s National Transport and Logistics Strategy, unveiled last year, calls for throughput at its container ports to quadruple from under 10m teu in 2020 to 40m teu at the end of the decade.

“The maritime sector will remain a critical enabler of the world economy and is largely experiencing significant growth in service requirements and operating margins. Recent events in Ukraine are, however, impacting long-term forecasting. We have remained focused in improving our capabilities, installing our simulation complex and updating our curriculum.”

The NMA was set up in 2016 in a partnership between national oil company Saudi Aramco and the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC), a Saudi training institute in existence since 1980, with branches in all major Saudi cities.

The Kingdom’s requirements for maritime expertise span the ports, container, bulk, tanker and logistics markets. The National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (Bahri) is a top-five global VLCC operator. Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification plans call for the dramatic expansion of its west coast ports and inland logistics, to in order to capitalise on the Kingdom’s centrality to global trade flows.

Based at Ras Al-Khair on the eastern coast, 80 kilometers north of the country’s industrial hub in Jubail Industrial City, where NMA is based, KSIC is expected to be one of the largest shipyards in the world. “This proximity presents us with an advantage towards closer cooperation,” Al Shehri said.

“We currently train a number of members of the KSIC’s future workforce with skills in shipbuilding- related trades. Our pool of trainees come from a number of shipping companies and marine employers such as Saudi Aramco, Bahri and Rawabi Holding, among others,” he said.

NMA's first cohort of ratings, comprised of 47 students, successfully completed Phase 1—Marine English Language—of their training program in July 2021. “The learners have been studying contextualised maritime English since November 2020 and are now ready to progress to technical training through the associate diploma in maritime studies, and are due to graduate in November 2021,” it said.

Today, women represent only 2% of world’s 1.2 million seafarers, while 94% of female seafarers are working in the cruise industry. “NMA will fully support the IMO’s gender ‘Women in Maritime’ programme, whilst keeping in mind the Kingdom’s traditions and customs. NMA will offer preferential placements for shortlisted female applicants. We will also facilitate maritime training for women that may wish to work in the maritime industry but may not be inclined to work at sea,” Al Shehri said.

“Looking to Vision 2030, consideration of diversity as a whole, not just how it relates to women, will be one of the challenges facing the sector. NMA will promote a maritime culture that encompasses diversity in its broadest sense and will reap wide-ranging benefits and rewards for Saudi society. I am very optimistic about the future of the maritime industry.”

Turki Al Shehri, Director, National Maritime Academy, is speaking at the Saudi Maritime Congress, September 28-29, Dammam, Saudi Arabia

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