John Konrad's Newest Article "It's Time for Kings Point to Step up to the Plate"

This discussion will be about this article.

While reading this article, I saw some things that I agreed with and a lot of things that I did not. So in true fashion, lets discuss.

“Critics say it is unfair that students from our nation’s five state maritime schools, the majority of which are saddled with large student loan payments, must compete for jobs against KP graduates who all receive free tuition.
“It is just unfair,” said one gCaptain reader. ”Tuition at KP is paid by the taxpayers. They compete for jobs with state students who need those jobs to pay off student loans.””

  • No one is forced to go to a state academy over USMMA. I chose to go to MMA because I thought it was going to give me a better education and a more normal college atmosphere. That’s what I wanted, and because of that and being an out of state/region student, I am choosing to have student loans. That is my choice and has nothing to do with fairness. With that being said, even with being at Maine Maritime, if I wanted free/reduced tuition I could join the ROTC unit and go Navy, Marine Corps, or SSO.

"The US Maritime Administration (MARAD), which has federal oversight of KP, argues that all KP alumni serve as active duty or naval reserve officers and work not just aboard deep-sea commercial ships but aboard US naval, Military Sealift Command, inland waterway, offshore, research and other types of vessels around the world."

  • As a rebuttal to this, I would stay that there is a large group of Kings Point students who are only there because of the commission they receive upon graduation, not the license. While it is admirable that they want to serve their country, they are also taking resources that could be used for people who actually want to sail on a license. This problem doesn’t exist at state academies

  • In the section 'Show Me The Money" Konrad talks about how since KP isnt going to get a new training ship then they should get other improvements. While I dont disagree that KP should get much needed infrastructure improvements. Personally, I think every Academy, including KP, should get a training ship and sail on it. Sailing on a should ship for someone’s first real time at sea allows a standardized training schedule that ensures everyone gets the same education and also is a more controlled atmosphere where students can learn yet still have a good time and bond with classmates. Breaking up sea time also allows more room academically for students who might fall behind for some reason IE sickness, lack of getting a ship because of COVID, family emergencies etc.

"A merchant marine technology and innovation center would likely cost less than a single training ship and could train midshipmen on the latest technology and, if congress would allow outside participation and investment, it could be a center for global maritime technology and do for our industry what Stanford and MIT have done for the tech sector."

  • I think every academy needs to update their technology training. Especially with Dynamic Position becoming a widespread technology, there is no reason why schools shouldnt have a class on it.

"There are many ways to accomplish this but it starts with a single uniform worn by all students at all academies. It requires a common language and a common set of experiences throughout all the schools."

  • I completely agree, and don’t really see why it would be an issues to implement this.

"In the past year, I have had the opportunity to talk with presidents and administrators at most of the state schools and they all face one big problem. This is also a problem at Kings Point. The problem is it’s difficult to fit new programs into a curriculum that’s bulging at the seams. A curriculum that’s overstuffed with mandatory license training programs like the ones once offered by GMATS."

  • I disagree with this. Yes, getting a maritime degree is harder than getting a business degree at your local state college, but it is not extremely hard with “a curriculum that’s bulging at the seam.” This is highly exaggerated.

"Specifically, I would call on the USMMA to conduct the summer indoctrination of all students enrolled in Merchant Marine license programs."

  • I disagree with this even more. My question is Why? Why should I have to got to Kings Point to do their version of INDOC when I really don’t have to. This goes to the argument of a more normal college experience that I wanted. If I wanted to do their INDOC then I would have gone to KP. Plus, every school has their own traditions and by forcing them all to go to KP, they lose those traditions. It sounds like he’s advocating for a bunch of mini KP’s that all report the the current KP, and I personally dont like that.

"It would work like this. State school graduates not obtaining licenses as well as those with licenses who are going to work shoreside or on vessels that don’t require extra endorsements would graduate and enter the workplace on schedule. Those seeking endorsements like STCW, and willing to sign up for the USMS, would travel to Kings Point for an additional 6 months of specialized training after graduation."

  • If my school couldnt teach me what I needed to know about shipping out in 4 years, then I should really consider going to a different school. Maybe someone else can fill in the blank, but what would we actually be doing in those 6 months that we couldnt do at our own institutions?

"… it would give our young officers a common set of principles, a common uniform, and the opportunity to meet each other and develop a common culture before leaving to enter the workplace."

  • I like the idea of having ways to meet and talk with cadets from other schools, and I think the schools should do more together. Maybe that could be in a junior cruise type fashion when students could go on another school’s ship. Since the ships are all supposed to be built the same and with the same features, there woulnt be as much as a learning curve and could give students a way to meet.
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It should just be closed. It serves no purpose anymore and is an unnecessary burden on taxpayers. There is simply no reason the federal government should run a school that trains individuals to work in private industry when the state academies do an acceptable job of that already.


Kp is is 0.0081 percent of of the annual defense budget. How is that a burden?

I’ve been asking for this for years but there is no room In the bulging curriculum for it.

My concern is not the degree of difficulty, I am not worried about the students course load, the problem is the schools can’t offer additional classes like DP because there are too many mandatory classes.

There are classes required for a license, classes required by state law, classes required by accreditation… and the schools are under pressure by the states to reduce the number of credits required to graduation.

It’s not just professional classes. Felix Reisenberg was a famous alumni author at my school. We had to memorize his sayings but never had to read one of his books. Schools would like to require a maritime literature class but they can’t get state approval because there are already too many classes required for graduation.

One school received a grant for a big cybersecurity and technology center but, despite the fact that cybersecurity is a skill in very hot demand within our industry, they had to give up the money because they could not guarantee that enough students had room in their busy schedules (or free elective credits) to take a cybersecurity class.

Whatever the percentage, it is still money and unnecessary. The school long ago outlived it’s purpose. Just because the federal government can fund it, doesn’t mean that it should. The deal the students have for their free education is way beyond what any of the other federal service academies receive, never mind the state maritime academies.


I agree with salty, the institution has outlived its purpose and value. We don’t need another service academy, we need maritime industry training for mariners, not high school kids with military dreams or their parents looking for a free ride.

The only reason the place still exists is because it existed once when it was needed but now it is just inertia and some self defined, self sustained and self promoted sense of heritage. The idea that the graduates bring value to the industry is bogus, they only bring value to the group of people who have defined their own worth on what they did where for 4 years after high school.

Turn the place into a merchant marine training school for documented mariners.


I say a two part reform.

Part one, switch up MSC’s manning to something more similar to commercial sailing. Equal time on and off. Doing that right there would come close to doubling the amount of jobs available. It would result in fresher crews and more bodies available in the event of a call-up.

Part two, KP grads serve a minimum of six years active duty in another branch or six years with MSC. No drill ships, no rigs, no commercial shipping, no reserve duty. No “shipyard management” or Nav Arch type jobs without first having some real experience working in the industry. I’ve seen too much money spent trying to fix things that someone with sailing experience would have immediately pointed out as a problem from the get-go.

I don’t think it’s worth trying to make all of schools go through the same indoc for license track. I went to school to get a degree, not do some stupid song and dance for a power tripping upperclassmen. I was focused on why I was in school and I did what I needed to do to make the most of my time there.


Here are some comments posted to our facebook group and my responses:

It’s funny that John Konrad thinks the solutions to the US Merchant Marine’s problems lie in MORE government involvement. Innovation lives in the private sector!

Really? Have you seen the amount of money the feds pour into Stanford (birthplace of google), MIT, Harvard (facebook, microsoft), Princton (Amazon), Berkley (Apple) and the other top schools??

In addition to countless programs the DOD has it’s own innovation lab at several schools. The MIT one (Lincoln Labs) alone has a $1.01 billion budget. Even MARAD and the rest of the DOT have a huge new lab (The Volpe center) at MIT and a $250 million (3 times the size of KP) budget.

Oh year and all that federal money poured into NASA hasn’t created any innovation at all.

Better money could be spent revamping the regulations which have all but crippled the US Merchant Marine in the first place. Closing Kings Point should be considered much more seriously than doubling its budget.

YES except good luck doing that!! In 2020 Congress doesn’t like revising and writing laws but they sure as hell do like to write a lot of checks!

We can’t work with the system we want… we have to work within the confines of the system we have.

Sure, but we should also change the option of going into the reserves upon graduation. 6 years with MSC if you don’t want to go active duty.

Sounds good to me.

Lol, KP doesn’t make anyone a profit. More likely the Jones Act disappears than KP gets a public funding increase. They need to figure out how to make themselves profitable.

The state schools don’t make a profit either. According to OBM each state school cadets are only 36% less expensive to taxpayers (state and federal) than KP midn. And state school cadets will be more expensive than KP’rs once new training ships are built.

Here’s feedback from LinkedIn

Your ideas are well thought out and would be welcomed, if not for politics. While I can’t speak of all maritime schools, I do have extensive experience at one of them. Federal oversight should extend to all institutions receiving Federal money. This would include the choice of administrators. I have observed career academics masquerading as senior commissioned military officers, administrators who returned to campus almost immediately after graduation with an axe to grind against the regimental system, and in some cases manipulating academic course grades from failing to passing. While no one needs a hard core drill instructor, graduates sailing on vessels of any type are expected to follow orders.
While you quite rightly speak of training in the new technology, oversight should include the basic low tech back up topics long associated with licensed professional mariners. To the best of my knowledge, every vessel still carries a magnetic compass, even though very few still steer by them. A ship’s officer today still carries the same responsibilities as those of yesterday.

My reply:
Great points.

And just so I’m clear my position is that the “latest electronics” should only be taught on cruise and in extra marad paid license training at union facilities and a newly built KP Technology center after graduation.

The primary reason I suggest this is for exactly the reason you state: as technology grows it’s MORE important for the cadets to focus on the fundamentals in the classroom.

Strip down on campus instruction to the very basic core of seamanship and education then use off campus facilities (training ships and marad funded license courses) to teach the technology separately.


Exactly. Not from KP but this is why I support keeping it. This country needs more STEM focused schools, not less. There is a return on the investment to the country, regardless of the USMM.

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Steamer, your points are well received.

Your last point in particular I have thought about many times myself. Have you happened to ever take any courses with the WMU? I started taking some courses through them, but, the material and interaction was so inadequate (that’s the nicest term I could come up with) that I didn’t sign up for the second part of the program.

Its certainly an idea with merit; and one that kind of aligns with how GMATS was once viewed. Take the institution, feed it federal money, and open up a international facility to attract mariners and leaders from around the world. The namesake still has value, and its still in a prime location.

Not that I’m saying KP should replace the WMU, but, I do not think it likely to be defunded either. They have some graduate programs there now, but, I think its a small example of what it could be.

The school was on a federal CR 20 years ago, and still has the same issues. In the world of politics, its easier to feed money into things than retract it, so, why not put more money into it and turn it into something better than what it is?

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Totally agree, 100%. No KP grad should be working on a foreign flag vessel and it counting towards their service. That is one of the most ridiculous things. Active duty, just like the other academies.

(Sorry, posted in the wrong place just now.)

I am not sure how many Mariners necessarily find employment on say, a foreign flagged container vessel, but, just to ask, are you familiar with 33 CFR § 141.15 - Restrictions on employment?

Is it foreign flag that is concerning, or, is it just that it should be active duty? (Genuinely curious, no sarcasm intended, because I have my thoughts both ways too.)

Probably not many, but (somebody correct me if I’m wrong), EVERY drillship/rig is foreign flag.

I think your right but there were once several of them and that made me look up the last US Flagged Drillship I’ve seen… and the most famous one: The Glomar Explorer.


I’m sure THAT thing was full of Kings Pointers.

Then you’re going to restrict any KPer from working on any drillship/rig. Not really sure that’s possible or logical.

I believe one of the helix vessels, Q4000 is still US flag.

However, 33 CFR requirements stipulate that vessels exploiting the GOM (and other US offshore areas provided there was drilling elsewhere) require US crews. It doesn’t matter if it’s foreign flagged or not.

(Does foreign flag employment cause Concern if the vessel was operating off of Africa?)

Concern for whom? I know several mariners who still work for their drilling company and the rig has moved from the GoM to other, more lucrative foreign areas. Still lots of US sailors on those rigs.

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Sorry, I see where you were going now, I think we’re on the same page.

I was just postulating a hypothetical in the last question.