Captain’s Corner – Making Dreams Come True by Working Together

Ten years ago San Jacinto College leadership set out to make a dream come true. After surprising discussions with community leaders revealed that a city built around a 52-mile maritime highway and the nation’s largest exporting port was sending many of its mariners out-of-state to get additional training for navigation, the College set its sights on changing the way mariners were recruited, trained, and educated in Houston.

2013 Half Trustmark
That dream became a reality on March 8, 2016, when San Jacinto College threw open the doors to their new state-of-the-art Maritime Technology and Training Center. A plethora of public officials, industry leaders, and well-wishers were on hand to cut the ribbon, raise the flags, ring the bell, and celebrate.

The new facility is deserving of a day of pomp and circumstance. Located on Old Highway 146, overlooking the Bayport turning basin area, the Maritime Center is 45,000 square feet of space on each of its upper and lower levels. It boasts a 3,748 square-foot suite for three full mission ship bridge simulators – donated by the Houston Pilots – 15 classrooms, engineering simulators, an aquatic training facility, and much more. (Take a look at the Port Bureau’s photos of the grand opening ceremonies on page 8.)

What makes the Maritime Center such a treasure is that it is the result of very productive, collaborative work among industry, community, and education. What began as a search for training solutions for local maritime workers has culminated in a comprehensive maritime campus for the port region.

Discussions about training needs began in 2006, when Commissioners Janiece Longoria and Jimmy Burke came to school officials with the need for more local training options for mariners. The College then invited participative input from maritime industry leaders and, together, they created a leadership forum to map out plans for the future. Programs were GIS-ad-5x7.5developed specifically for working mariners and recruiting a new crop of young people into the industry. This forum later became known as the advisory board for the growing plans and programs.

In 2010, the College received a Texas Workforce Commission grant as well as federally appropriated funds – championed by Congressman Gene Green -- and began offering courses at a leased facility along Highway 225 in Pasadena. Student response was immediate, so the College moved to add more courses. The Houston Pilots partnered with San Jac by adding three full mission ship bridge simulators. In 2012, a maritime transportation associate degree was introduced by the College, with additional degree plans soon following.

As Dr. Sallie Kay Janes, Vice President for Continuing and Professional Development at San Jacinto College, opened the day’s ceremonies, she gave a thankful and just recognition to the members of the College’s original maritime advisory board: Bob Fry, Mega Fleet Towing; Gordie Keenan, Higman Barge Lines; Pat Studdert, Buffalo Marine Service, Inc.; Captain Stephen Polk, Seaman’s Church Institute; Dave Hanby, McDonough Marine Service; Tom Trey, Bay-Houston Towing; and Captains Tom Pace and Bob Webbon of the Houston Pilots.

Houston is adept at making big dreams come true. We’re a rather amazing city, with a major port dug out of a bayou, and technological knowledge to send people into space and give them new hearts. These accomplishments are all the result of people working together to make dreams come true. Big dreams never come true working alone.

What’s the next big dream that will become a reality? There is plenty to choose from right here in our home port: affordable dredging, traffic efficiency, keeping us green, the list goes on. One thing is certain. We can accomplish big dreams by working together.


  • Date April 12, 2016
  • Tags April 2016