Wednesday 27 May, 2020

Stunning growth path, but now challenges for CMU

Professor Fritz Pinnock

Professor Fritz Pinnock

The Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) has been dubbed the region’s centre of excellence for tertiary maritime, logistics, engineering training, research and consultancy, and has been propelled by several stakeholders in Jamaica as one of the institutions that will produce skilled professionals aimed at strengthening the nation’s economic outlook for the future.   

There have been over time, positive reviews of the resounding successes of the institution, but suddenly its reputation was negatively impacted earlier this year with the firing of then Education Minister, Ruel Reid, in the face of corruption allegations that emerged in relation to both the ministry and the CMU.

And as information began to trickle from especially sittings of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the operations at CMU began to come under greater scrutiny.

The negatives further intensified when Professor Fritz Pinnock, the institution’s President, went on voluntary leave of absence in July, to allow for transparency with police investigations at the institution. After returning to his job two Mondays ago, he went off on special leave a day later, to allow for the probe to completed in his absence.

Then came the shocking news last Wednesday that the CMU President, along with Reid and two of his family members and the Councillor for the Brown’s Town Division in North West St Ann, Kim Brown-Lawrence, had been arrested, questioned and then charged in relation to what the investigating agencies jointly said was a multi-million dollar corruption scandal which allegedly involved five accused persons.

They were all offered bail a day later, and were ordered to return to the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on January 23, 2020.

But the students, lecturers and administrators at the CMU will have a task on their hand to fully repair the obvious damage to the institution’s reputation, irrespective of the eventual outcome of the court cases.

The CMU, which boasts a rich history that has seen it transcend into one of the top tertiary institutions in the Caribbean, offers degrees at the undergraduate, post-graduate and doctoral levels, and is recognised by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport of the United Kingdom, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and the World Maritime University.

Professor Fritz Pinnock 

The CMU receives some 20 per cent of its funding from the Government of Jamaica. The balance is met through a number of other sources, including tuition fees (which are said to be below the actual economic cover costs of the various programmes); contributions from the Shipping Association Jamaica, revenue from customised courses and consultancies, and from research and development endeavours, along with grant funding, where available.

The tuition to attend the CMU is said to be generally among the more expensive rates among universities in the island, but the prospects of high-paying careers on successful completion of the various programmes there are known to be far greater that most other institutions, generally.

The Caribbean Maritime Institute, which officially became the Caribbean Maritime University on World Maritime Day on September 28, 2017, has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1980 as the Jamaica Maritime Training Institute (JMTI).

According to an article on the CMU’s website,, entitled ‘President (Professor Fritz Pinnock) on (the) current role of CMU and its prospects,’ the CMU has over time endured three name changes in as many decades, which saw it beginning as the JMTI operating from 9 Norman Road in Kingston in two renovated offices with a total of 30 students.

The JMTI was later relocated to the premises that now house its main campus on Palisadoes Park, Norman Manley Highway, in May 1984.

The next major milestone for the institution occurred in 1990, when training was expanded to embrace the global market, the article said. For the first time, non-Jamaican nationals became part of the student population. Then in May 1992, the first Jamaican-born executive director was appointed.

In January 1993, the institution transitioned into a statutory body under the laws of Jamaica, and was renamed the Jamaica Maritime Institute (JMI).

Expanding programme offerings to meet the needs of the dynamic markets served by the institution has always been a priority. September 1994 saw the introduction of the Diploma in Shipping and Logistics (DISL programme), funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). This provided higher education of a specialised nature in a critical growth area. In furtherance of this mandate, in 1997, the institution signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Technology, Jamaica, establishing an Associate Degree programme in Industrial Systems, Operation and Maintenance (ADISOM).

Three years later, in May 2000, a formal declaration of reciprocal recognition of the Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW 1995) and Certificates of Competency was issued to Jamaica by the UK Maritime & Coast Guard Agency. This positioned the JMI as an internationally-recognised organisation, using Europe as a launch pad.

In December of that year, Jamaica was listed among 72 countries on the IMO’s white list of nations complying with STCW 95, making the JMI the only IMO-recognised institution in the Caribbean.

In 2001, the JMI was renamed Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) to reflect the expanded scope of its programmes and activities, and in 2004, the CMI gained accreditation for the Diploma in International Shipping and Logistics and ADISOM programmes from the University Council of Jamaica.

In the article on the CMU website, Pinnock disclosed that, “I joined the team in 2006, introducing to the organisation the Blue Ocean Strategy, and transformed the marine and professional division to a paramilitary management style with a premium on discipline, employability and alignment to the global maritime and logistics industry. This was to lay the foundation for the rapid growth and development that would precede the attainment of university status.”

He added: “From 2007 to 27 September 2017, we embarked on a relentless campaign to achieve the latter. During this period the CMU accomplished 12 major strategic defining successes:

  • Multiple international programme accreditation
  • Institutional accreditation
  • Premier status as a differentiated institution within the saturated local tertiary education landscape.
  • Attainment of ISO 9001:2008 – subsequently upgraded to 9001:2015
  • Numerous awards for quality and leadership
  • Growth of over 300 per cent in student population
  • Significant expansion of core programmes
  • Numerous local and international partnerships
  • Spearheading of elite sports in education, such as rowing, fencing and cheerleading
  • Training and certification of key players in the local and international maritime industry
  • Moving from bottom to top place as the fastest-growing tertiary institution in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
  • Investment of over US$1 billion in technology to diversify.

Professor Fritz Pinnock (centre) being taken to court on Thursday morning.

Under the heading titled ‘A new era’, Pinnock noted that with the institute becoming a university on September 28, 2017, it brought with it “changes in processes, people and prospects”.

The university, which has now close to 5,000 students enrolled, is organised into five faculties, a school of graduate studies, and four centres.

“These centres are strategically established to align education and training with theory, as well as to promote research and development in a bid to meet industry needs and to solve problems through consultancy and through sustainable and collaborative solutions by adopting an oriented approach to improving the maritime and related sectors,” according to the online article.

“The faculties are specially created to meet the needs of the growing student population and the anticipated growth to be had from international students. The Faculty of Marine and Nautical Studies offers programmes that provide training for persons wishing to develop a career in seafaring. Students enrolled in these programmes are trained in the rudiments and theory of nautical studies, and are taught shipboard operations to the management level. This has always been the nucleus of the institution, and will be strengthened as we expand its focus.

“There is a drive to modernise and develop the university through technology, and to attract and produce technologically-sound problem-solvers. In this vein, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Technology was born. It spearheads engineering-led, research-based academic activities geared towards a culture of applied research. It focuses on multi-disciplinary growth areas that are globally relevant, such as biotechnology, alternative energy, robotics and integrated engineering.

“In order to support the drivers of economic growth and development in the region, the Faculty of Shipping and Logistics was established. This faculty provides… training in logistics, which is an integral component of every organization, but particularly so in production, distribution and trade. The Faculty of Advanced Skills and Professional Development serves primarily customised industry needs and those seeking alternative pathways to educational advancement in a variety of areas.

“The School of Graduate Studies and Research is an emerging area of development in which the university is investing to ensure that higher-level studies are undertaken in critical areas of shipping, logistics, maritime studies and related areas. The programmes, including the doctorate of philosophy, are offering as dual degrees in part with Mokpo National Maritime University in South Korea, and Antwerp Maritime Academy in Belgium,” the website revealed.

There are several centres of excellence that operate within the Office of the President that cater to a range of needs. One of them, according to the article, was the Maritime Training Centre, which offers all IMO Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers. These courses are approved qualification standards for masters, officers and watch personnel on seagoing merchant ships, and for engineers.

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