Maine Maritime Academy boasts of one of the finest training programs in the country. We are the only maritime academy in the country to certify tug and barge operators with TOAR licenses (Towing Officers’ Assessment Record), a necessity for those working in the towing business. We train some of the best boat handlers and navigators and companies know it. Even with our reputation, companies that come to this campus to recruit still lay down a fierce set of expectations.

Back in February, representatives from Dunlap Towing Company came to hire cadet interns and new licensed officers from the underclass and graduating seniors. Eric Hansen, port captain for the Seattle-based company, gave a presentation alongside Mike Harlan, also from the Dunlap office. In it, they discussed the things that are important to Dunlap: employee commitment, trust, dependability, problem solving, and above all, safety.

Safety becomes the first and foremost priority in the maritime business, with for good reason. The disasters for ships like the Titanic and Costa Concordia and Normandie are just a few examples of what happens when a ship and crew are not trained and prepared.

Dunlap requires safety training annually for its employees, and at Maine Maritime, we learn everything we can about how to respond to fire, flooding, electrical failure, engine failure, stormy weather and the proper procedures for abandoning ship, should it come to that. We learn about the physics of stability, and how to keep a vessel upright by distributing weight properly on board. Not surprisingly, safety is the first and greatest expectation of all companies, so this emphasis is understandable.

Chuck Easley, the co-op coordinator for the smaller vessel programs at Maine Maritime, says the best way to show your commitment to safety is by listing many of your training certifications on your resume: fire fighter, security officer and others. Training for such jobs as crane operator and the TOAR license also contribute to the safety mentality, because safety comes first in every kind of training.

Western Towboat, another Seattle-based company, came in March to recruit cadets and hire new mates as well. Recruiters emphasized work ethic, enthusiasm for your job and a commitment to do the job right the first time. This ties directly into safety, because when you look around a boat, you can spot the problems only if the rest of the vessel is kept up to a high standard.

That’s why Western Towboat not only builds its own vessels, but also maintains them to a spotless gleam until you can’t tell if the boats are used at all. If the engines are wiped clean of oil and the decks scrubbed and waxed, leaks will become apparent immediately, and sources of other problems show themselves with trumpets and drums. That is why it’s so important that the crew of a vessel keep things shipshape, and why Maine Maritime instills such a work ethic into its students.

The expectations in the industry are high. Everything is oriented around safety, and if the simplest of procedures that seem mundane at times are kept to the best standards, then the number of emergencies you see in the news will dwindle to a minute figure. In our business, safety comes first.

Benjamin Stevens of Islesford is a sophomore at Maine Maritime Academy.