School History

Paul Hall Center: Meeting Industry's Needs Since 1967


The Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, which opened in 1967, is the largest training facility for deep sea merchant seafarers and inland waterways boatmen in the United States. The school has developed a pioneering approach to education that has successfully integrated vocational training, academic enrichment and trade union responsibility.

Named after Paul Hall (1915-1980), an outstanding past president of the Seafarers International Union, the center is the product of a unique cooperative effort by the Seafarers International Union and the management of privately owned American-flag deep sea ships and inland tugs and towboats. The campus is located on 60 acres in picturesque Piney Point, Md. at the confluence of the Potomac River and St. George's Creek. It is entirely funded with private monies.

Tens of thousands of rated and licensed seamen have completed upgrading classes at the training center. Additionally, more than 22,000 men and women from every state in the U.S., Puerto Rico and several U.S. territories have graduated from the trainee program for those just beginning their maritime careers.

The Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education is composed of the Joseph Sacco Fire Fighting and Safety School, the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship, the Thomas B. Crowley Sr. Education Center and the Paul Hall Library and Maritime Museum.

The school is committed to providing the nation's maritime industry with skilled, physically fit and responsible deep sea seafarers and inland waterways boatmen. The school believes that the men and women who choose careers as professional seafarers or boatmen must be provided with the knowledge and skills to keep pace with technological advances within their industries. As a result, the school has developed a total program for professional advancement as a boatman or deep sea mariner. This program focuses on three key areas:

1. Providing men and women who have no maritime experience with the basic skills they will need to serve aboard U.S.-flag ships or tugs and towboats;

2. Providing professional advancement for experienced men and women through career upgrading programs; and

3. Providing the academic education which is an essential complement to the modern technical skills needed in today's water transport industries.

Since its founding, the Paul Hall Center has provided careers for an entire generation of men and women and, at the same time, provided qualified manpower aboard America's merchant vessels whenever and wherever needed to ensure that vital cargo is moved safely and on time.

Originally, the SIU maintained training facilities in five ports throughout the country. As the programs expanded to meet the challenges of advancing technology, it became necessary to centralize the training activities. Thus, in 1966, the union acquired the present site in Piney Point, Maryland.

By bringing together highly qualified educators in the specialized field of maritime training, centralization made possible the rapid expansion of the school's vocational programs. As vocational education became more advanced and specialized, the need for academic skills to master highly technical instructional manuals became evident. To meet that need, a reading skills program was established in 1970. The program proved to be a highly successful complement to vocational training.

Since then, the academic curriculum has experienced the same rapid growth as the vocational program. Today, a complete high school equivalency program (GED) is offered as well as an adult basic education program, study skills and an English-as-a-second-language program.

In 1972, the SIU recognized the need for trained personnel aboard the tugs, towboats and barges of the inland and coastal waterways. Again, the school responded to this need, and today, basic vocational training and a complete upgrading program in all licensed and unlicensed ratings are available to America’s professional boatmen.

In 1978, the school entered into a contractual agreement with Charles County Community College of Maryland. This agreement made it possible for students to take college-level courses offered by Charles County Community College at the Seafarers School of Seamanship and earn an Associate in Arts degree.

Seven years later, the Seafarers School of Seamanship developed its own degrees in Nautical Science Technology and Marine Engineering Technology. These programs received full approval from the Maryland State Board for Higher Education in that same year.

The school continued to expand. In 1981, the Paul Hall Library and Maritime Museum was dedicated. It has become one of the best sources of maritime labor research in the United States.

In 1984, the Seafarers Training and Recreation Center was completed, adding a new conference center and 300 modern hotel-type rooms and dormitories.

In 1985, the school undertook new programs for training SIU crews for Military Sealift Command-contracted ships. A program was designed for sealift training that includes instruction on a twin pedestal 16-ton Hagglund crane. This program has answered the Navy's need for trained Seafarers to operate these special classes of ships. The School has the only Military Sealift Command damage control-approved course in the United States.

Subsequently, a multi-function bridge deep sea and inland simulator system became fully operational. It had a full range of instructional, maritime research and developmental capabilities. The full-size, main bridge mock-up was correlated to a 180-degree beam-to-beam field of view as well as a 35-degree stern view. The main bridge contained appropriate bridge controls, electronic navigation equipment, collision avoidance radar and bridge-to-bridge communication equipment. Additionally, three independently maneuvered auxiliary bridges allowed for interaction between the main bridge and traffic vessels. This initial program is currently undergoing transition and changes. Within the past two years, new equipment has been added for ARPA training, radar certification and bridge resource management.

In response to the demands for continued enhancement of maritime education, the Seafarers School of Seamanship added two specialized programs to the curriculum in 1991. As a result of the requirements of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, an oil spill emergency containment and cleanup course was created. Also, an entirely new electronics lab was set up to accommodate students for a marine electronics technician program. This course helps prepare students who wish to sit for their FCC license exam.

In 1993, the Maryland Higher Education Commission authorized the Seafarers School of Seamanship college program to change its degree award to an Associate of Applied Science degree and to a certificate program in Maritime Technology.

In the last few years, the school has recognized the need to upgrade its technology and provide opportunities for students to build upon their respective computer skills. Additional computer equipment has been installed for the lab in the Thomas Crowley Education Building. Computers have been installed in the library for student use for both personal and instructional purposes. A computer lab is now being used in the academic department to help teach basic skills, English-as-a-second-language and vocational skills.

In 1999, the Paul Hall Center constructed and opened the state-of-the-art Joseph Sacco Fire Fighting and Safety School. Already, this school and program have achieved national recognition for excellence. Instructors from the school also are training crews and union members aboard vessels throughout the world.

In late 2000, the school installed more new equipment and simulators for training at the Paul Hall Center -- high tech simulators for bridge management, crane operations, engine simulation and more.

In the areas of curriculum development, seven new courses, all part of the Unlicensed Apprentice program, were approved for credit by the American Council on Education (ACE). In addition, the school received certification as an Authorized Provider of Continuing Education by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).

This approval will provide students with the opportunity to earn Continuing Education Credit (CEU) for some of the courses offered by the school, both on campus or at other sites under the school's auspices.

New courses are constantly are being designed and written by the curriculum department to ensure that all training meets the requirements of the United States Coast Guard and the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW 1995) This effort ensures that members receive the most modern and up-to-date courses.

The Paul Hall Center has continued its association with the Military Sealift Command. New courses have been added to prepare members to work on vessels under contract with the military, including courses in government vessels; chemical, biological and radiological defense; anti-terrorism; and marine environment.

These ongoing improvements demonstrate the commitment of the Paul Hall Center to maintain a highly trained, current and competent work force for the maritime industry.

The mission of the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Education and Training is to provide professional training to students who are just entering their maritime career, to mariners who wish to improve or upgrade their seafaring skills and to mariners who wish to retrain in their job classifications. Through this training, upgrading and retraining, students are well prepared to work safely, capably and effectively on board U.S. merchant vessels.

A Word About STCW

In February 2002, the amendments to the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW 1995) took effect. However, beginning in February 1997, a transition period began which implements these new maritime regulations.

These rules and regulations, adhered to by the United States and 119 other nations, directly affect the training and upgrading of members of the Seafarers International Union. The STCW sets qualifications for masters, officers and watchkeeping personnel on seagoing merchant ships.

The regulations are enforced in the United States by the Coast Guard. Merchant ships and smaller U.S.-documented commercial vessels that operate on oceans or near coastal voyages also are subject to the provisions of the STCW.

The amendments to the STCW are comprehensive and detailed. They concern port-state control, communication of information to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to allow for mutual oversight, and responsibilities of all parties to ensure that seafarers meet objective standards of competence.

They also require candidates for certificates (licenses and document endorsements) to establish competence through both subject-area examinations and practical demonstrations of skills. Training, assessment and certification of competence are to be managed within a quality standard system to ensure that stated objectives are being achieved.

All seafarers employed or engaged in any capacity on board a seagoing ship, on the business of that ship as part of the ship's complement with designated safety or pollution-prevention duties in the operation of the ship, must provide evidence of having achieved or retained, within the previous five years, the required standard of competency in personal survival techniques, fire prevention and fire fighting, elementary first aid and personal safety and social responsibility before they are assigned any shipboard duty.

For the Paul Hall Center, this has meant that courses have been revised, new outcomes and objectives written, and a method of practical assessment developed. Instructors are meeting requirements, and assessors have been trained to be examiners in order to assess the competence and skills of individual seafarers.

As the name indicates, this international treaty impacts both the content of training received by merchant mariners and the methods by which such courses are made available. During the past few years, the school has restructured its courses to fully comply with the provisions of the STCW.

At the same time, the school has initiated procedures to assist the members with maintaining their licenses, certificates of endorsement and to comply with these new provisions. A Training Record Book (TRB) was issued to members beginning in the fall of 1997. All of the courses required for STCW endorsement after January 31, 1997 have been approved. These courses include those required by the STCW Convention as well as personal survival techniques, elementary first aid, fire prevention and fire fighting, and personal safety and social responsibility. As courses have been approved, members have received the STCW endorsements or certifications qualifying them to sail under this treaty.

The Paul Hall Center and all of its components have embraced the competency-based training and demonstration of proficiency philosophy contained in the STCW. While at the Paul Hall Center, students are kept informed of the latest STCW requirements.

For more information about the Paul Hall Center, contact:

Office of the Vice President
Paul Hall Center
P.O. Box 75
Piney Point, MD 20674
telephone (301) 994-0010.