Concept of a Maritime University in BD – F R Chowdhury
It was about 3 years ago when the Prime Minister visited the Juldia Marine Academy and declared that Bangladesh will soon have a maritime university. Members of the Bangladeshi marine community at home and abroad were delighted. Since then we were eagerly looking forward to any further development in this respect. We certainly expected a wide ranging consultation with all concerned. On 27-October-2013 a gazette notification published, for the benefit of the public, Act Number 47 of 2013 brought an abrupt end to all speculations.
By this act, Bangladesh’s lone marine training centre, the Juldia Marine Academy was turned into Maritime University with all its facilities that belonged to it. The country’s marine community was terribly shocked and disappointed. Their delight and excitement at the original announcement of the prime minister evaporated in a whimper. In the very preamble of the Act Number 47-2013, it states that the university will be setup with the existing facilities of the marine academy. This means the end of marine academy itself. Only the other day we celebrated golden jubilee of the academy which can be proudly termed as a rare story of success in Bangladesh. It has been celebrated by Juldians all over the world. The academy project was a “dream come true” vision of the father of the nation. Why do we have to destroy it?
The concept of marine academy and maritime university are distinctly separate. The marine academy, under the ministry of shipping, is an institute that provides vocational and professional education and training. For the academic part it awards a degree under a university. Perhaps it will, in future, award such degrees under the maritime university. However, for progression of career, the trainees will have to perform mandatory period of sea-service, undertake Department of Shipping (DOS) approved training and then obtain the competency certificate from DOS. This is something that we cannot change because the international convention, to which we are a party. It must be clearly understood that a person may obtain Doctorate/Ph.D. in Navigation or maritime science but s/he still will not be eligible to work on a ship as a certificated officer unless issued with relevant certificate by DOS.
The marine academy has been functioning since 1962. The father of the nation Sheikh Mujib had a big contribution – not in setting up the academy but in its re-birth after the liberation of Bangladesh. The nation started re-building its armed forces immediately after the independence. The prime location and all available facilities in the marine academy was a desired venue for the navy to start the naval academy. We cannot blame them for such desire when there was no merchant ship under Bangladesh flag.
Capt. QABM Rahman was the principal adviser on maritime matters at that time. He assured the then prime minister Sheikh Mujib that Bangladesh would soon have its own fleet and would require the services of the academy to sustain the growth. Sheikh Mujib had no hesitation in making the right decision. Captain M. L. Rahman was appointed the first Bangladeshi commandant of the academy (in addition to his duties as Principal Officer of the Mercantile Marine Department). It was because of the timely decision of the father of the nation that marine academy still stands proudly on the bank of Karnafuli and serves the nation with more vigour than ever before; and more and more of our mariners are reaching every corner of the world.
Development of shipping
Here it must be mentioned how the newly born nation developed its shipping under dynamic leadership of Capt. QABM Rahman, Capt. Shafi and Capt. QMS Zaman. All three of them had merchant marine background. Many experts around the world treated it as a miracle in shipping history. Those were the glorious days of shipping in Bangladesh. Retention of the marine academy under the ministry of shipping as a training centre for merchant marine turned out to be a brilliant idea. We must retain it and develop it further to achieve higher glories.
The university will remain as the highest seat of education and will essentially remain under ministry of education. We expect a maritime university to regulate award of degrees by marine academy or other institutes in maritime studies. The maritime university itself shall conduct post graduation (M.Sc./ M.Phil./ Ph.D.) degrees, diplomas in specific fields such as – Ship-building and Marine Engineering, Hydrography and Port development, Law of the Seas, Transport economics, Maritime law etc. etc.
I am very sure that the readers by now have clearly understood that the Government is trying to unite two different entities, one under the ministry of shipping and the other under the ministry of education. This is not practicable. No sooner the merger is accomplished, the leaders of Chatra League, Chatra Dal and Shibir will be there. The marine academy will be no more the marine academy. It will be gone for ever. We need the marine academy to continue. It has created a history for itself. We should not try to destroy it.
Now let us look at the remaining part of the act 47-2013. The Vice-chancellor, Pro-VC, Dean, Treasurer and Registrar shall all be appointed from the Navy. For quite some time I thought it was all about a Naval University. It was because of this reason that I had to read the title several times. If the Government had done even the minimum public consultation then they would not have proved themselves so stupid.
I would urge upon them to find out the manning of the World Maritime University, Dalian/China Maritime University, Southampton University and Liverpool J M University; and they will realize how stupid or intelligent they are. In the UK there are several marine colleges such as the ones at South Shield, Glasgow and Black Pool; none of them employ any naval officer because they understand very well that merchant marine and navy are two different subjects. None can have anything against the navy. They are doing an excellent job in their own field. Yes, there are exceptional cases where a highly educated naval officer can be made a Vice-chancellor but that can only be an exception and not the rule.
Written by: F R Chowdhury (in London)
Friday, November 22, 2013