Big bucks go toward maritime sciences
Clatsop Community College has secured $8.1 million in state bonds to renovate and expand its maritime-science program.
State Senate Bill 5505 provided $1.3 billion in general obligation and revenue bonds for capital construction projects around the state. The college’s bonds will help add a second story and new infrastructure to the main building at the Marine and Environmental Research and Training Station, which houses the maritime-science program.
College President Christopher Breitmeyer, who testified on behalf of the bill in May, said the college had initially been left off the capital construction projects list, but fought hard to make sure the project was included.
“It’s going to allow us to upgrade a lot of our infrastructure for the courses we have,” Breitmeyer said.
The college offers one-year certificates and two-year degrees in vessel operations, along with dozens of certifications for mariners. A new program starting in the fall will train students as qualified members of a vessel’s engine department. Bill Antilla, head of the college’s maritime-science program, said the program will be one of about three on the West Coast.
“Since we’ve built this campus, our enrollment (in maritime science) has gone up more than 2,000 percent,” Antilla said.
The college’s maritime-science program, around since the 1960s and once located in the former Astoria Yacht Club building now housing the city’s recreation center, moved to South Tongue Point in the mid-1990s when the career-technical campus was built out. Antilla said the college has exponentially grown its programs in maritime science, turning new rules and regulations in the maritime sector into training programs. He said the college needs more space and new technology such as more advanced ship navigation simulators to continue expanding and offering modernized training.
Demand for the college’s maritime-science program isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. By 2020, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration, there will be a shortage of 70,000 licensed merchant mariners, a high-wage profession.
Antilla has been helping on several fronts to bolster the college’s highly unique maritime-science program.
The Legislature recently designated Clatsop Community College as Oregon’s official maritime college. State Senate Bill 867 will create a 17-member task force to study and describe the maritime sector in Oregon and make recommendations for the State Workforce Investment Board.
The college is also in the running to be designated a maritime center of excellence by Congress. The Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act of 2017, championed by U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, has been included as an amendment in the National Defense Reauthorization Act, which Antilla said increases its chances of passing.
“Just the designation for us is a help,” Antilla said. “I’ve been working on this for almost 10 years, so seeing it come to pass is significant.”
Antilla said the designation opens further funding sources for the college’s program, including access to federal surplus materials.
Breitmeyer said the college has six years to spend its state bonds for expanding the maritime science building, in which time it must figure out how to raise $8 million in matching funds.
“We are mainly going to look at some sort of major capital campaign, likely,” he said.
Breitmeyer said the college does not anticipate asking county voters, who recently provided an $8 million match to redevelop Patriot Hall, for more money. He said the college will look to large corporate donors and members of the maritime industry, adding that Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario raised a local match for a science center entirely from donations.