Click HERE to access a PDF copy (14 MB) of the Seafarers Log commemorative edition celebrating the school’s 50th anniversary. Click HERE to view the video produced to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary.

Paul Hall Center: Meeting Industry’s Needs Since 1967

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

Named for Paul Hall (1915-1980), an outstanding past president of the Seafarers International Union, the Center is the product of a unique cooperative effort between the Seafarers International Union of North America and its contracted shipping companies. The Center includes the Joseph Sacco Fire Fighting and Safety School, the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship, the Thomas B. Crowley Sr. Center for Maritime Services, the Bob McMillan Simulator Center, and the Paul Hall Library and Maritime Museum. The Center is committed to providing the nation’s maritime industry with skilled, physically fit and responsible deep-sea seafarers and inland waterways mariners.

The Center believes that the men and women who choose careers as professional mariners must be provided with the knowledge and skills to keep pace with technological advances within their industries. As a result, the Center has developed a total program for professional advancement as a U.S. Merchant Mariner. This program focuses on three key areas:

  1. Providing young 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 mariners 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 Center has provided careers for an entire generation of young men and women and, at the same time, provided trained and qualified manpower aboard America’s merchant vessels whenever and where ever needed to ensure that vital cargo is moved safely and on time.


Originally, the Seafarers International Union 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 present site in Piney Point, Maryland was acquired to house the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship.


By bringing together highly qualified educators in the specialized field of maritime training, centralization made possible the rapid expansion of the Center’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. 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 tutoring program.


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


In 1978, the Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship 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 Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship and earn an Associate of Arts degree. Seven years later, the School developed its own Associate of Applied Science degree programs in Nautical Science Technology and Marine Engineering Technology. These programs received full approval from the Maryland Higher Education Commission that same year.


The Center continued to expand. In 1981, the Paul Hall Library and Maritime Museum was dedicated. Since opening, it has become one of the best sources for maritime labor and history research in the United States.


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


In 1985, the Center undertook new programs for training crews for Military Sealift Command-contracted ships. This program has answered the Navy’s need for trained Seafarers to operate these special classes of ships. Included in the courses approved by the Military Sealift Command are damage control; material handling; underway replenishment; cargo handling; chemical, biological and radiological defense; marine environmental awareness; and Level I anti-terrorism/personal protection.

Also in 1985, the Center began its long association with the American Council on Education (ACE).  Over the years, this prestigious educational organization has reviewed and recommended vocational courses for comparative college credit, providing seafarers with the opportunity to transfer course credit to other institutions of higher learning.

A multi-function bridge deep-sea and inland simulator system was constructed in 1985. 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 simulator would remain in place until the turn of the century.


In response to the demands for continued enhancement of maritime education, the Center added two specialized programs to the curriculum in 1991. The first was based on the requirements of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990; an oil spill emergency containment and cleanup course was created. Secondly, an entirely new electronics lab was set up to accommodate students for a marine electronics technician program. This course helped prepare students who wish to sit for their Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license exam.

Late 1990s

During the late 1990s, the Center recognized the need to upgrade its technology and provide opportunities for students to learn and use personal computers. Additional computer equipment was purchased for the lab in the Academic Department. Computers are now installed in the library for student use for both personal and instructional purposes. The computer lab is now being used in to teach Microsoft Windows programs, develop inventory and menu programs for Steward Department personnel, teach Navigation Rules, and assist in the training of other vocational skills.


The Center constructed and opened the state-of-the-art Joseph Sacco Fire Fighting and Safety School in 1999. This school and program have achieved national recognition for excellence. Instructors from the school also are also traveling to provide training for crews aboard vessels throughout the world. A small arms range was added to the Joseph Sacco Fire Fighting School which allows for weapons qualification and recertification for MSC maritime personnel.


In 2000 a new dormitory consisting of 100 additional single occupancy rooms for upgraders was constructed at the Center.


In 2015, the Center installed a new advanced state-of-the art visual ship handling simulator.

The new simulator is full mission with 2 interactive towing vessel bridges as well as 3 interactive deep sea auxiliary bridges.  The main bridge simulator offers a full 360 degree field of vision.

This new comprehensive simulator provides enhanced training opportunities in the following areas: voyage planning and execution; coastal and offshore navigation; collision avoidance; ARPA/radar operation; electronic navigation systems; search and rescue operations; vessel traffic management; high speed navigation; bridge watchkeeping procedures including tugs and barges, and piloting; emergency procedures; oil spill response management; port development; human factors; and bridge team management.

The engine department simulator provides training for engine room watchkeeping, diesel propulsion, and electrical power plants. Additionally, the simulator includes an auxiliary system, machinery simulator, crane and liquid cargo simulation. Through the use of the simulator, engine department personnel experience realistic training and assessments. (These facilities are now housed in the Bob McMillan Annex, which is attached to the Lindsey William Building)

Other new stand-alone simulator systems provide realistic training on shipboard crane operation, Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS), and Global Maritime Distress and Safety Systems (GMDSS).

In the coming months and years the training of American merchant seamen in the handling of liquefied gas (LG) will be a growing part of the maritime industry.  To prepare for this training the Center has recently added a comprehensive Liquefied Gas  program to its growing list of simulation training.  The new simulator is a competency and assessment based training system and allows students to develop the skills necessary to safely load and unload a vessel with liquid gas cargo.  Students learn and understand system alignment, cargo pump operations, loading and discharging alignment, ballast systems, inert gas systems and the volatility of the cargo.  This training will provide new job opportunities for the members of the Seafarers International Union.

The Paul Hall Center’s newest training ship, the M/V Freedom Star was acquired in the fall of 2015.  Before being redesigned to serve as a training vessel for seafarers, the M/V Freedom Star served as a recovery vessel for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), retrieving solid rocket boosters following space shuttle launches. Propelled by two combined 2,900 horsepower diesel engines, the 176-foot long, Freedom Star has a 6,000 mile range and a maximum speed of 15 knots.


In the fall of 2016, the Center entered into an agreement with the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) to establish a new college degree program.  Through this cooperative effort, students will have a new opportunity to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Maritime Operations Technology.  This new, fully accredited program will replace the current PHC college program and will offer concentrations in Marine Engineering and Nautical Science.  Courses are planned to start in early 2018.

The Paul Hall Center remains an active participant in national and international initiatives to improve the quality of life and training of the world’s seafarers. Members of the staff participate in important meetings with other maritime unions, the United States Coast Guard, and the International Maritime Organization. Other maritime organizations, recognizing the quality of the programs have taken advantage of the training and facilities offered at Piney Point. Likewise many organizations make requests to the school for instructors to teach off-campus courses throughout the United States or at maritime ports throughout the world.

New courses are constantly being developed by the Curriculum Development (CD) department at the Center to meet the training needs of our seafarers, as well as those of our industry partners.  CDs knowledgeable and professional staff ensures that all new training meets the requirements of the United States Coast Guard and the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW 1995, as amended).  This assures that all Paul Hall Center students receive the most up to date and highest quality training.

These continuing changes and instructional improvements demonstrate the commitment of the Paul Hall Center to develop and maintain a highly trained, current and professional work force for the maritime industry.

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.