Local maritime safety training entity gearing to meet key need in the oil and gas sector

The current national preoccupation with Guyana’s recent significant oil find and its potential for driving an economic takeoff has, for several months now, been the focus of vigorous public and political discourse.

Local private sector entities have been contemplating the provision of such services to the sector as they can, though the oil discovery has caught the country in a condition of scarce sector-specific skills and facing the very real prospect of having to rely on imported skills mostly from North America and to a lesser extent from the Caribbean.

At the regional level, Minister of Energy and Mines Raphael Trotman told Stabroek Business recently that the Government

Training at sea
Training at sea
A MATPAL classroom session
A MATPAL classroom session

of Guyana is on the verge of concluding a Cooperation Agreement with Trinidad and Tobago under which the twin-island republic will share its considerable expertise in the oil and gas sector with Guyana. This arrangement apart, much of the rest of the support for the sector is likely to come from the developed world. Founded in 1999 by Garry Palmer and Orrin Matthis, former First and Second Deck officers with the Transport and Harbours Department, the MatPal Marine Institute (MPMI) has been providing for the training needs of Guyanese seafarers and other stakeholders for more than 15 years.

Since October 1999 MPMI has been collaborating with the Maritime Administration of Guyana (MARAD) to provide maritime training within Guyana, paying particular attention to safety considerations in the sector.

Two franchise-type agreements with the Jamaica-based Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) and the Panama Maritime Training Services (PMTS) in in 2003 and 2007, respectively, have helped to significantly broaden the base of the entity’s expertise. Today, it is the only maritime training institution in Guyana with a target group that includes seafarers seeking to become more qualified thus enabling them to function at higher levels. The entity’s training regime spans safety considerations in both the deck and engine room departments.

Earlier this week, Stabroek Business met with MPMI administrators Ryan and Coleen Abrams who are currently fully preoccupied with the prospects of having the agency share its skills with the oil and gas sector.

The administrators said the institute is busying itself, in collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago-based HHSL Safety Systems Ltd, with preparing a maritime safety template which it hopes to execute with the oil and gas sector locally.

They said they are encouraged by the feedback they have received from ExxonMobil functionaries as well as from Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson. Sixteen MARAD cadets currently being trained by MPMI are gaining valuable practical experience aboard the offshore supply vessel owned by the Louisiana-based company Edison Chouest Offshore and contracted by ExxonMobil.

The prospects would appear to be bright for MPMI in circumstances where, according to the two administrators, the potential of the agency to provide a critical service to the oil and gas industry has already attracted the attention of locally-based international agencies that may be inclined to provide material support for the undertaking. In one particular instance, MPMI has been charged with preparing a concept document on its proposals for training which is scheduled to be ready before the end of 2016.

Going forward, the current preoccupation of MPMI is in creating partnerships with state and non-state entities. One of its immediate priorities is to engage Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman. In a country where, in every respect, the oil and gas industry provides as many challenges as it does opportunities, MPMI is not unaware that there may well be an opportunity that can completely change the face of the organization.

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