Recently, I had the pleasure of spending three days at SCI’s Houston Center for Maritime Education. During my visit, I engaged staff and students at our simulation center, hosted lunch with senior management from the Port of Houston Authority and Kirby Marine, and made calls on the vessel operations centers of companies that train with SCI, including Kirby, American Eagle Tanker, Buffalo Marine, and Higman Marine. The company visits especially energize me because I can combine substantive meetings with company management while riding with the crews who move liquid cargo in our nation’s leading petrochemical port.
The visits also enabled SCI to combine the best of its pastoral care and maritime education missions. Director of Maritime Education Eric Larsson and Lower Mississippi River Chaplain Mike Hammett (who calls on the Houston port twice monthly) joined me as we toured facilities, discussed maritime training goals, and visited vessels moving tank barges in Houston’s bustling port. While docked, crew shared humor, companionship, and stories about families back home. While underway in the port, I marveled at the precision required for safe, efficient navigation. Working night and day in all weather conditions, the crew embody the very heart of SCI’s pastoral and educational mission.
In cooperation with the Port of Houston Authority, US Coast Guard, and the Houston Ship Channel Security District, SCI is upgrading its simulation infrastructure to sponsor cross-sector safety and security training—from modeling oil spills (our hydrodynamic databases do an incredibly accurate job), to extreme weather conditions and terrorist incidents. As SCI’s Maritime Education division has done for more than 100 years, we keep reinventing ourselves to meet the emerging demands of the maritime industry.
Our pastoral care division maintains the same resilience. After our Houston visits, Chaplain Hammett returned to Louisiana to meet a towboat crew that just pulled a non-mariner suicide victim from the river. Mariners do a tough job, and they need an attentive ear on painful days.
SCI loves its mission in the bustling ports of NY/NJ, Houston and Oakland, and I get pumped every time I visit.