Uruguayans seek urgent overseas apprenticeships

The Uruguayan merchant navy, once a proud, vibrant community, faces a bleak feature with cadets struggling to find training spots on ships around the world.

The Naval Academy of Uruguay (ESNAL), a training institute of the national navy, was founded 110 years ago. The first merchant officers graduated in 1917 and since then that has continued to happen year after year.

In order to comply with the most demanding goals, the National Administration of Uruguay was among the first countries that requested to be submitted to a voluntary IMO audit.

The quality of educational management of ESNAL is certified by the ISO 9001-2015 standard and is subject to periodic audits by EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency), to comply with EU requirements.

Over the last 40 years, the Uruguayan merchant fleet has practically disappeared, leaving only a few coastal ships, ferries and bunker suppliers. However, Uruguayan merchant officers continue to graduate and seek job opportunities, most of them abroad.

The problem the academy faces today is that it does not have any training agreements in place with shipping companies or potential employers for them to finish their apprenticeship onboard. There will be seven deck and eight engineers graduating this year with all the STCW courses in place but lacking the proper sea time.

“Belonging to a small country away from the main trade lanes is a handicap that future Uruguayan merchant marine officers have to deal with, but even so, they strive showing that the quality of their training and their professional commitment is second to none. They deserve better chances to prove it,” ESNAL’s Professor Alberto Zambrana told Splash today.

Representatives for the academy are due to hold discussions with a leading shipmanager on the issue next week.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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