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Karla-Omayra – A New Training Ship for the Netherlands Antilles

On August 26, two ministers of the Kingdom of the Netherlands were present at a name-giving ceremony of a unique ship: the Ro-Ro freighter Thor Scan became Karla-Omayra. The Maritime school NAZ (Nederlands-Antilleaans Zeevaartinstituut) of the Netherlands Antilles has a ship of her own!

Dutch minister of Transport, Public Works, and Water Management Karla Peijs and her colleague of the Netherlands Antilles, minister of Education, Culture, and Sports Omayra Leeflang, lent their names to the 372 foot, 10,000 ton roll-on/roll-off ship Karla-Omayra. The ship will sail under the Netherlands-Antilles flag and aim at a double purpose: giving space to trainees of the new maritime school in Curacao, and sailing in a time charter with project cargo to make this educational space affordable.

The name-giving ceremony took place on the Gemak shipyard in Tuzla, near the Asian part of Istanbul in Turkey. When All At Sea went to press, the ship was still in the dry dock for maintenance and installation of two new 50 tons cranes. When ready Karla-Omayra is going to sail worldwide; giving up to 15 trainees at a time the great opportunity to see the world and experience the atmosphere and culture at sea, while learning about safety and other aspects of seaman’s life. She also provides the necessities to give youngsters, who might have dropped out at school, the grip to learn and train for a secure future at sea.

The project is an initiative of the Antillean government and is carried out in cooperation with the Dutch government, whose ministers and parliament members are actively looking for a solution to give the Antillean youngsters who might consider moving to Holland a better chance for a good future on their own island.

Two teachers, captain Joop van de Wijngaart and engineer Gerrit Vis, at first connected with the nautical department of the local Feffik school, took the initiative to start an education on a disciplinary base, teaching the students the reasons why they have to act in a safe and reliable way at sea. When the pilot project was half way, both teachers and 17 of their pupils got the opportunity to sail a small cruise ship from Amsterdam to Curacao. The journey was full of surprises and learning moments. It even turned out to be an example of how a training for young men at sea should be.

When the ship arrived at the end destination, Curacao, about three years ago, minister Omayra Leeflang was present on the dock, welcoming the students and their mentors. At that moment, she recognized the great value of the project, and made the promise to take care of a traineeship of their own.

Only three years later Karla-Omayra is reality thanks to the financial help of the Dutch government and the effort of the teachers and many volunteers involved.

The training project starts with a six month’s training ashore, the so-called Elementary Maritime Education program. This primarily concerns personal development. Students will undergo training in general discipline, sports, art, how to follow classes and social skills. After completion the students will put what they have learned into practice aboard the ship, where the focus will shift to professional development. Experts will evaluate the students’ achievements and assess individual potential, enabling them to develop themselves as effectively as possible.

After completing ‘Ku Kara pa Laman’, the youths should be able to join society as productive, healthily functioning people. They will have learned how to take responsibility, respect and use safety rules, and show an alert attitude. When the Karla-Omayra is available in the very near future, they can really live and work as a seaman, far away from home and among students like themselves and experienced seaman.

At the moment the first group, consisting of Jorgen, Romeo, Dominique, Joseph and Merwin, takes the plunge.

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