‘Piney Point is a Great Place to Start a Career’

July 2010

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Between its renowned entry-level program and numerous upgrading courses, the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education offers plenty of opportunities for Seafarers to help advance their careers.

Korron Richardson (pictured at right) knows all about those opportunities, and he stands as one of the most recent examples of the school’s long-held axiom that its students can progress as far as their ambitions take them.

Richardson, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., graduated from Paul Hall Center Trainee Class 578 in 1998. Since then, he has returned to the Piney Point, Md.-based campus upwards of 20 times for various upgrading courses. Earlier this year, he completed the third mate’s class and subsequently passed the exam to earn his license.

“This school is a great place to learn,” Richardson, 31, said in Piney Point immediately following the June membership meeting. “Piney Point is a great place to start a career and to become part of a great union. The SIU offers excellent jobs and real opportunities to move up, to better yourself and better your family’s situation.”

As with virtually any worthwhile achievement, Richardson’s ascension wasn’t easy. He said the mate’s class (which lasts 16 weeks and formally is called Officer in Charge of a Navigational Watch) by far was the most difficult one he’s ever taken.

Instructor Stacey McNeely credited Richardson for bearing down.

“He definitely did not give up when the going got tough,” she stated. “Korron worked really hard. He is an example that you can go as far as you want to go. This career path is achievable by anyone who wants to do it and is willing to do the work. He will make a good mate.”

Richardson, who most recently sailed aboard the Sealand Eagle, enthusiastically cited McNeely’s steady guidance as an invaluable aid throughout his studies. He also enjoyed the support of his family, including his wife, Latasha, who pointed out that Korron “has made great progress in a short period of time. He’s only been in the union for about 12 years and for him to have gotten as far as he has in such a short period is a real accomplishment. I’m really proud – he didn’t let anything stop him.”

Good Fit
For Korron Richardson, Piney Point and the SIU were a good fit from the beginning. He learned about the unlicensed apprentice or trainee program from his brother, Rashawn, who preceded him at the school. (Other family members also sail with the SIU, including cousins Curtis Richardson, Lavell Smith and Corey Richardson.)

He started sailing in the engine department but quickly switched to the deck, where he found his niche.

Richardson said he liked the maritime industry right away, including a schedule that contained some unforeseen benefits. But his desire to advance evolved through a number of years, thanks in part to repeated encouragement from fellow Seafarers as well as officers who saw his potential.

“I enjoy the traveling and then having that time off afterward with your family,” he said. “It’s great – you can catch up, get things planned. It’s a good deal. You work hard, then you come home and can enjoy a nice long vacation with your family.

“As far as wanting to keep upgrading,” he continued, “when I saw those opportunities, I just tried to make it a habit: go to work, get enough sea time, see what classes I can take, and just go for it. You learn so much, and you have opportunities to get better jobs.”

Time after time, he came back to the Paul Hall Center to help achieve his goals. (His fondness for the school is so great that he even took his family there for vacation, including son, Korron Jr., and daughter, Kariah.)

“The environment makes it the right fit for learning,” Richardson noted. “It’s quiet and there aren’t many distractions. All the resources are here, and the school has made a lot of improvements over the years, such as the simulators and the fire fighting school.”

He also pointed out that the lessons aren’t abstract. Recalling a voyage on the Overseas Ambermar, Richardson remembered relieving the bosun for a midnight watch as the vessel was preparing to go through the Panama Canal. The ship lost steering, but Richardson’s training paid off when the captain gave orders to drop the anchors. Richardson did so – port first, then starboard, then putting them on the brake – and helped save the ship.

Reflecting, Looking Ahead
Reflecting on his still-unfolding career, Richardson said he has enjoyed sailing on a wide variety of ships including tankers, containerships and roll-on/roll-off vessels. He is proud to have supported our troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom – he earned the U.S. Merchant Marine Expeditionary Medal for a voyage aboard the USNS Capella – and in general wishes more of the public understood the importance of the U.S. Merchant Marine.

“Somebody’s got to deliver the cargo, the ammunition,” he observed. “It’s not just dropping out of the sky. People fail to realize who’s doing that job. We do it, and we’re willing to sail into harm’s way to deliver.”

Looking forward, Richardson eventually wants to sail as captain. He already knows the training and testing requirements.

His advice to people just entering the industry? “Don’t listen to he said, she said. Go out there and gather information for yourself. When it comes to work, just do the job and your character will show. Learn that job, master your position, and then move on to something else. I remember there were times as a wiper, cleaning the heads. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it, so take some pride in it. People notice.”

Asked to summarize his experience at the school, from the beginning until now, Richardson thought for a moment and then replied with a hearty laugh, “Pleasure and pain! Starting out as a trainee, you’re trying to get used to something new but you don’t really know what’s going on. But when you get out on the ships, you remember the things you learned at school. The other pleasure part is a decent check – the money. You start to see the big picture.”

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