Idea for training ships below. Based on the merchant marine we have today, and the money we can bestow on it. Not the best idea, not the worst. Impractical perhaps, because it relies on the rarest of commodities: cooperation and dedication.
A) Marad would operate two traditional type training ships. Marad/DOD funds. All state academies would send their 4th-year students to these two ships. A new division of Marad would coordinate it all. Mix the trainees from different schools together. Just 4th year students.
B)2nd and 3rd year: State academies and KP would not have big training ships. Instead, they would each operate a fleet of about 3-4 big tugs with barges. The tugs would operate in areas that are a challenge to navigate, even in this day-and-age. On the West Coast the WA-BC-AK Inside Passage. On East Coast the Intracoastal Waterway from Florida to New Jersey. Crew of 20 trainees per boat. You have a watch or two every day. Endless boathandling. Endless collision avoidance. Endless making, breaking tows. When not in wheelhouse on deck or jumping barges. Or in engineroom. When not in engineroom then cooking meals and washing dishes. Minimal professional crew as trainers. You may not want to tow for a living but there is very little that you learn in towing that you won’t use somewhere else.
C)1st-year students: Separate the wheat from the chaff. The first year is meant to teach trainees trade fundamentals, which means, for engineers, the care/feeding/repair of engines, and for deck students basic navigation and the effect of wind and current on a vessel. 1st year is meant to get rid of bad habits and build in good ones (AKA “boot camp”). Foremost, the first year is meant to eliminate people who have no real interest in going to sea. To that end, for engineers , after three months of intensive classroom study and lab, teams of student engineers take apart 3000 HP diesel engines ashore. Tear them down to their smallest part, then put them back together again and operate them. Time the teams. If after three attempts a student can’t do it in an allotted time the student is politely told to go elsewhere. As for deck students: travel up the same waterways they will navigate in their 2nd and 3rd years, but in the crudest, stupidest vessels imaginable: open boats with nothing but sail and oar. No motor. No electronics. Compass and paper chart. If they can’t get from Point A to Point B after several weeks they are politely asked to leave. After such pain, suffering and frustration the remaining students would be the few who [I]really [/I]want to go to sea. Bonus: they would have learned,by pain and sweat, the fundamentals of their trade