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Maritime Centers of Excellence legislation passes both houses of Congress


The establishment of Maritime Centers of Excellence took another step forward on Sept. 18, as the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes provisions for the centers of excellence.

The House version of the act, approved July 14, also includes Maritime Centers of Excellence provisions. After the two houses reconcile minor differences in their respective versions, the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810) will head to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

Maritime Centers of Excellence would bolster maritime education and training at two-year community and technical colleges along U.S. coasts and major waterways that offer maritime programs. Under the legislation, the Secretary of Transportation would be authorized to designate colleges meeting certain criteria as Centers of Excellence for domestic maritime workforce training and education.

Tidewater Community College is one of a handful of schools around the country that would be eligible for such a designation, allowing the college to receive technical assistance, surplus federal equipment and federal funding to help address a shortage of qualified workers for the maritime industry – a major pillar of the Hampton Roads economy.

Hampton Roads’ entire congressional delegation voted in favor of the act, said TCC President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani.

“We are grateful to our senators and representatives, who clearly understand the critical role Virginia’s Community Colleges, including TCC, play in sustaining and growing the maritime workforce,” she said. “I look forward to next steps and working with Secretary Elaine Chao to make the centers of excellence a reality.”

The maritime industry requires technical skills training and licensing, even for entry-level positions. To earn appropriate credentials for each level of maritime industry employment, workers must complete regular training from course providers approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Through their maritime technology programs, TCC and its partner colleges around the country endeavor to ensure maritime employers have access to workplace-ready employees. TCC provides academic and workforce training programs in many of the maritime skills employers are seeking, including logistics, supply-chain management, warehouse and distribution, welding, diesel and gasoline engines, pipe-fitting and inside machinist.