Scholarships Sponsored by Royal Caribbean
Two Bahamians Among Outstanding Graduates of American Caribbean Maritime Foundation
She spent 11 months aboard a bulk carrier, the youngest member of the crew of 23 and the only female. He spent nine months on a container ship and six months on a bulk carrier.
Together, they are the future of the maritime industry and as of this week, the two Bahamians, Shante Pearson and Tre’von Ferguson, were among three honours graduates of the prestigious Caribbean Maritime University. The third honours graduate was from Jamaica. All three attended the university on scholarships from Royal Caribbean International donated through the American Caribbean Maritime Foundation.
“I am so proud of Shante and Tre’von who are graduating at the top of their class after rigorous training at the Caribbean Maritime University, an ISO 9001 certified institution,” said Geneive Brown Metzger, LLD Hon., American Caribbean Maritime Foundation President. “These two young mariners have acquired global currency and are on their way to achieving their maritime dreams. They are shining stars.”
Both Pearson and Ferguson dreamt of maritime careers from the time they were little.
“I’ve been around boats all my life,” said Ferguson, 26, whose childhood memories of fishing with his uncle were fueled further by going to work with his mother at the Freeport Container Port. “She was a ship planner (responsible for cargo container loading). I’d look out the window and see container ships and cruise ships and I’d be in awe and wonder who was driving them and where did they come from. And I’d think, ‘When I grow up, I want to do that. I want to be driving that ship.’”
By the time Ferguson was in high school, he was working to make that dream possible. He joined the Maritime Cadet Corps, participating in the training programs during his 10th, 11th and senior year at St. George’s High in Freeport. The summer after graduation, he landed a job working on a pilot boat guiding ships in to or out of port.
“I got to see how the ships operate. I could see the bridge, the crew.” The more he saw, the stronger the conviction became to be part of that world. He spent a year in Cuba learning Spanish to boost his chances of a maritime job in the region and just as he was about to face another stint away from home, the LJM Academy opened on the grounds and surrounding waters of the former Coral World and from there, he qualified for Caribbean Maritime University.
Greg Purdy, Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Marine Operations, who toured the LJM Academy in 2018 said he was “blown away” by what he saw, comparing it to the finest maritime training facilities in the world, including those in locations like the Netherlands and Italy where the world’s largest ships are built and launched.
Like Ferguson, Shante Pearson’s dream was shaped early. She trailed her dad, now retired from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, when his ship was in port, fascinated by all that made it work and how far it could travel. She loved the water, diving and spearing. At CV Bethel Senior High School in Nassau, she joined the Maritime Cadet Corps, graduating top of her class and being honoured with the Clyde Bethel Award and a scholarship for being the Most Outstanding Bridge Watch Cadet. That scholarship enabled her to attend the LJM Maritime Academy.
At age 17, Pearson took a risk that earned her a singular place in Bahamian history – as the youngest and only female to crew aboard a cargo vessel through Campbell Shipping that remained at sea for 11 months.
“I was the only female crew member among 23 men and I was the youngest and from a different culture. Most of the crew was from India so the language and culture barrier in the beginning was really hard,” said Pearson, 23. “I still don’t know to this day how I did it.”
The toughest part of the journey was three days sailing the Bay of Biscay, among the roughest waters in the world, known to swallow cargo ships and threaten the largest cruise ships.
“The Bay of Biscay showed that Mother Nature has no remorse, no pity and plays no favourites,” Pearson said. For three days, the vessel pitched and rolled. Waves crashed across the topsides, swamping the above decks. No one could work beyond keeping the boat afloat. Pearson stayed awake for nearly 24 hours during the ordeal, afraid to sleep in case they had to jump ship and scramble to a lifeboat.
She finished her assignment, excelled at LJM Maritime Academy and earned the scholarship for the Caribbean Maritime University, an academic and training institute that is to the maritime sector what the Harvard or Yale universities are to law. When she graduated this week, even without a ceremony, she was already looking at her life goal, becoming a Master Mariner and working aboard a cruise ship that one day she will captain. She already holds a Class A captain’s license, earned at age 18, entitling her to operate a vessel up to 200 tons.
Her desire – to be the first female captain of a Royal Caribbean Oasis class ship, the world’s largest, like Symphony of the Seas capable of carrying 6,000 guests and 2,500 crew.
“We’d love to make that dream come true,” said Russell Benford, Royal Caribbean International Vice President, Government Relations, The Americas. “We take great pride in assisting promising young people who want a career in the maritime sector where there are vast growth opportunities for those with different skill sets. The stories of Shante Pearson and Tre’von Ferguson give us great hope and faith for the future of a cruising world and what makes their stories even more intriguing is that they come from The Bahamas, a seafaring nation where going to sea seems to be in their DNA.”