In WorkBoat, we have been giving a lot of coverage to the job market in the workboat industry. In some sectors, it continues to be pretty difficult to find qualified and motivated workers.

The subject brought an interesting correspondence from Kevin Olsen, a staff chemist at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Kevin says he's teaching a bunch of pretty bright and motivated students who are well-versed in the science behind the environmental issues facing the maritime industry but have never set foot on a commercial vessel.

"From what I can see, being an officer in the merchant service is as much about understanding and following environmental, labor, and safety regulations as navigation and seamanship," Olsen wrote in an email. "I have heard that a licensed captain needs to know more about regulatory compliance than navigation."

Kevin raises an interesting question: Could there be a place for these students in the maritime industry?

"If the answer is yes, perhaps this is something the university's placement services center should be thinking about," he wrote.

To work on vessels, the students would certainly need specialized maritime training that would lead to licenses and credentialing. But could their scientific background be helpful onshore to help a company make sense of the growing number of environmental issues that are increasingly touching vessel operations?

Creating a link between science and maritime work might be worth exploring.

Let's hear from you. Please drop me a line or respond to Kevin directly at [email protected] 


Pamela Glass is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for WorkBoat. She reports on the decisions and deliberations of congressional committees and federal agencies that affect the maritime industry, including the Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Prior to coming to WorkBoat, she covered coastal, oceans and maritime industry news for 15 years for newspapers in coastal areas of Massachusetts and Michigan for Ottaway News Service, a division of the Dow Jones Company. She began her newspaper career at the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times. A native of Massachusetts, she is a 1978 graduate of Wesleyan University (Conn.). She currently resides in Potomac, Md.