Today, the maritime tradition is as strong as ever, as services to transport food and daily supplies are still prevalent between the islands, sloop sailing in annual regattas continues to be an active sport among local fishermen and boat builders for community development.
The maritime tradition in The Bahamas is steeped in the Bahamian cultural heritage. As an island nation, the sea and maritime affairs are natural parts of the transport and communication networks of the islands. Today, the maritime tradition is as strong as ever as services to transport food and daily supplies are still prevalent between the islands and sloop sailing in annual regattas continue to be an active sport among local fishermen and boat builders for community development. Many young people have been participating in the seafaring and maritime tradition through junior regatta opportunities, but not many of them have pursued formal opportunities in maritime education.
Locally, formal professional level training programmes are almost non-existent. This is astounding and regrettable as The Bahamas is the fifth largest global maritime nation. As of 2011, there was only one approved Bahamian maritime institute providing training for personnel to command the fleet of ships which are owned locally and those registered in The Bahamas. Therefore, the urgency for The Bahamas to train more of its citizens as licensed seafarers to leverage its global maritime potential is great.
Despite the long maritime tradition, maritime education has developed fairly slowly in The Bahamas. In 2003, the Bahamas Maritime Authority commenced a Maritime Cadet programme offering introductory information on seafaring to high school students. In 2008, Campbell Shipping Company Ltd., a world-renowned Bahamian Shipping Company, in partnership with The College of The Bahamas, established a Summer Maritime Camp for students entering 8th and 9th grades. This Camp which started in New Providence Island has had overwhelming demand, and has now been launched in several Family Islands (Grand Bahama and Abaco). The camp introduces and exposes students to the maritime industry and informs them of educational requirements and options for careers in this field.
The interest in the Camps and the Bahamas Maritime Cadet Programme and the lack of adequate manpower in the industry locally and worldwide, moved Campbell Shipping to establish a local, tertiary-level training facility, the LJM Maritime Academy (LJMMA). The objective of the Institute is to make maritime education affordable to Bahamian youth, as presently the only means to access training facilities is outside The Bahamas.
The LJM Maritime Academy (LJMMA) is named in honour of the President of The Campbell Group of Companies, Lowell J. Mortimer, OBE. The Academy, headed by President, Dr. Brendamae Cleare, birthed in August 2011 when the former Crystal Cay, renamed Maritime Cay, was purchased for the construction of the Institute. Launched in November 2012, the LJMMA, a nonprofit institution, is scheduled to receive its first cohort of 55 students in September 2014 in a residential, state-of-the-art training facility, Cornerstone Laying for which occurred on 15 August 2013. LJMMA will provide a unique and holistic learning experience designed along two strands: Engine or Deck (navigation) and will be one of the nation’s pillars in stimulating and sustaining growth in the maritime sector. These programmes will give students an overall exposure to the theory and practicalities of life on a ship and will lead the Bahamian Maritime Industry in offering excellent maritime education that adheres to industry standards, thus ensuring employability globally. As the programme matures, cohorts may increase up to a maximum of 110 students.