In a continuing shift of emphasis for maritime colleges, the California Maritime Academy said it will offer a specialty in intermodalism.
The academy said it also believes it will be the first U.S. college or university to offer a degree in business administration with an intermodal focus."We want to take a leadership role in it, and we think we are," said Capt. James J. Buckley, a Cal Maritime professor involved in the program's start-up.
He said other colleges offering degrees in transportation typically focus on either the rail or truck modes. "Our emphasis is going to be on teaching the students how the various modes of transportation connect," he said.
Cal Maritime is following a nationwide trend for maritime colleges to broaden their scope due to declining enrollment. The California school had 110 graduates last year, down from 500 five years ago.
The nation's merchant marine academies are adding courses in harbor, marina, small boat yard and fisheries management, Capt. Buckley said.
"We identified intermodalism as what we think will be the trend of the future," he said. "Some of the other schools are doing other things."
"Maritime academies are looking for ways to improve the marketability of their students," he added.
Capt. John Denham, Cal Maritime's placement director, said the bachelor of arts program also will address a major problem in most shipping companies today.
He said there's a schism between the two types of people running the firms: the MBAs and financial whiz types who've taken over much of top management, and the older seafaring captains in middle management ranks.
The two don't understand each other, according to Capt. Denham. The MBAs don't understand operating details, and the ship officers can't grasp the new corporate world of leveraging and high finance, he said.
"We're trying to close that gap and make our people more employable and survivable," he said. "Competitiveness is the magic word for survival right now."
According to Capt. Buckley, even managers who are finance-oriented tend to view their business from the point of view of only one transportation mode. Cal Maritime wants to help change management styles, he said.
The California academy, 40 miles from San Francisco, now offers three degrees: marine transportation, marine engineering and mechanical engineering. Next fall it will start offering the B.A. program with the option of specializing in intermodalism, finance, or management.
The intermodal specialty will include courses on ship, truck, train and aircraft operation, hazardous materials shipments and import and export regulations.
So far industry feedback to the program "has been very positive," said Capt. Buckley. But executives are cautious, he said. "This hasn't been done, so they want to see how it will turn out.
''We're doing our best to offer courses of value to the transportation industry," he added. The academy consulted a variety of firms in drawing up its courses.
Student demand was also a factor in deciding to offer the B.A.
''It will not be a real easy program to get through," however, Capt. Buckley warned. Students will still have to take traditional courses for a third mate's license so that when they graduate, they'll be officers in the merchant marine.
At least half the students in Cal Maritime's last graduating class took jobs in the shoreside maritime or engineering fields.
About 15 percent signed on as ship's officers on U.S.-flag vessels, and another 15 percent to 20 percent took seagoing jobs on tankers or other ships that will eventually lead to officer status. Four percent are unemployed.
Cal Maritime said it expects to hire both full-time and part-time professors to teach its new intermodal courses.