The American Caribbean Maritime Foundation (ACMF) is supporting the growth of the region’s maritime industry through donation of funds for infrastructure development and the education and training of students at the Palisados Park-based Caribbean Maritime University (CMU).
“We have committed over $30 million (US$220,000) in scholarships and building funds and have 13 scholarship recipients to date from Jamaica, the Bahamas, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Founding President of the ACMF, Dr. Geneive Brown-Metzger.
Dr. Brown-Metzger, who served as Jamaica’s Consul General to New York for several years, launched the American non-profit tax-exempt foundation in 2016.
She notes that as Consul General, she was involved in promoting the economic development of the country and spent much of her time exploring avenues to get foreign direct investment into Jamaica.
It was at that time that she learned about the importance of the maritime sector and made a commitment that once she demitted office, she would take on the cause full-time and work towards the advancement of the maritime industry in Jamaica.
The former Consul General, in an interview with JIS News, noted that the decision was made to support students who could not afford to get a degree in maritime studies.
Criteria for selection include outstanding academic achievement and compelling financial need.
“We feel very strongly about the students and about the opportunities to really make transformative change in their lives,” she explained.
“We try to ensure that we are broad and cover the Caribbean as effectively as possible,” the founding chair pointed out.
The foundation recently expanded its academic beneficiary network to include the University of Trinidad and Tobago, and the Bahamas-based Lowell Jason Mortimer (LJM) Maritime Academy.
Additionally, in keeping with the requirement of donors, ACMF will be expanding its outreach into Haiti, Suriname and Barbados.
Dr. Brown-Metzger further argued that infrastructural development is a major focus of the foundation, and the entity has donated to the building of the Roland Smith Lecture Hall at CMU, which is named after one of its donors.
“So, we believe that we are doing very substantive work, not only in terms of changing lives but in contributing to the development of the infrastructure, the essential classrooms and other amenities at the university,” she noted.
The ACMF is supported through donor funds and Dr. Brown-Metzgar conteded that the foundation takes accountability and stewardship of those funds “very seriously”.
Operations are governed by a board of directors, which includes Founder and Retired President of Seafreight Line Limited, Roland Malins-Smith, who is the largest individual donor to the foundation; and President of Tower Isle Frozen Foods, the oldest and largest Jamaican-American business in the United States, Trevor Smith.
Dr. Brown-Metzger noted that a scholarship committee, chaired by an ACMF board member, manages the process of selecting candidates, and the committee is required to provide regular reports about the academic performance, community engagement and general well-being of the recipients.
This information is provided to donors in an annual report.
Beaming, Dr. Brown-Metzger said that all recipients are doing “extremely well” and they are invited to participate in ACMF events “because donors want to see and engage with students that are receiving our support”.
Among them is Bahamian Shante Pearson, a 2018 ACMF Royal Caribbean International Scholarship recipient, who says that the award has not only enabled her to further her education “but also granted me the opportunity to fulfil my lifelong dream of becoming a master mariner and a female captain”.
General Counsel for the foundation, Robert O’Connor, says his role is to ensure that entity operates at the highest standard.
“The General Counsel has to ensure that the organisation has good corporate governance, that we adhere to all the regulations imposed upon us by United States law and that we continue to conduct ourselves in an ethical manner and continue to pursue our goals,” he said.
He added that his own involvement in the foundation came as a result of his work as a maritime lawyer and his desire to give back to the industry.
“It is something that is near and dear to my heart and I believe that the Caribbean is very important for the maritime sector and that educating students in the Caribbean for the maritime sector will help to lift the Caribbean’s profile economically and allow the Caribbean to develop a good maritime sector,” he said.
O’Connor noted that the increase in cruise shipping and the expansion of the Panama Canal has created a tremendous opportunity for growth of the region’s maritime industry.
The 2019 ACMF award recipients are Dané Dean, Trinity Brown and Dale Royal of The Bahamas, who are recipients of the ACMF Royal Caribbean International Scholarship; while the Fern Khan grantees are James Foster, Athena Tené Francis, Jenelle Hinds and Oshane Kamal Swaby of Jamaica; and André Theobalds of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Fern Khan is a retired Jamaican educator in the United States, who served as Dean of the Division of Continuing Education at Bank Street College of Education in New York.
The foundation also recognised three of its benefactors – Past President of the Caribbean Shipping Association, David Harding; Senior Vice President, Marine Operations, Royal Caribbean International, David Purdy; and President and Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Port World, Captain Remy Vyzelman.
Meanwhile, Dr. Brown-Metzger posited that the foundation is looking to expand its base of donors in order to prepare more students for the critically important maritime industry.
ACMF is grateful for the support of the maritime industry in Jamaica led by Transport and Mining Minister Robert Montague and Director General of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ), Rear Admiral Peter Brady.
Speaking at the ACMF’s 2019 Anchor Awards in New York last October, Minister Montague applauded the Foundation, noting that it is helping to “alleviate poverty and transform lives in the Caribbean through maritime education and community development”.