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NSCC student rides academic wave to Germany

Canso’s Brent Myatt aiming for career as ship’s captain

  • May 29 2024
  • By Corey LeBlanc    

CANSO — Brent Myatt has loved being on the water for as long as he can remember.

That passion for the sea has even spurred his academic pursuits, which boasted an international flavour earlier this month.

The Canso native – a marine navigation technology student at the Nova Scotia Community College’s (NSCC’s) Strait Area Campus in Port Hastings – recently travelled to Hamburg, Germany as part of a contingent from the school’s marine institute.

“It was really exciting – a trip of a lifetime,” the 21-year-old said of their visit to the major port city, one connected to the North Sea by the Elbe River.

Myatt was proud to be selected as one of five students that accompanied Steven Baxter, lead faculty with the marine institute at the Strait Area Campus, on the voyage.

“It was an amazing experience,” the third-year student told The Journal.

While on the first half of the exchange, the NSCC delegation were hosted by students and instructors with the marine component of Germany’s highly-respected vocational school system.

“I got the chance to steer one,” Myatt noted of being at the controls of a tour boat in Hamburg Harbour.

He said that they also received an “inside perspective” of the inner workings of a large-scale container terminal.

“It was great to see the other side,” Myatt offered of what’s involved with the journey for the cargo on the types of ships that he and his colleagues may be sailing on some day.

They also visited a 10-storey building that housed coffee beans.

“I didn’t know that they were green,” Myatt said of the hue-related lesson the group received during that stop.

The NSCC group also learned what’s involved in preparing those beans for distribution, including moisture tests and a lengthy drying out process.

“We had a lot of fun and we learned so much,” Myatt added.

Noting how he was “amazed” by that java-related encounter – what’s involved – Baxter quipped, “I will never complain about the price of my coffee again.”

Describing it as “really education,” the NSCC lead faculty said having his students be a part of that “cross-over experience” – seeing the inner workings of a “busy port” – was invaluable.

  

A life on the water

This international excursion is the latest chapter in Myatt’s nautical story, one highlighted by having the opportunity to lobster fish with his grandfather, Basil Dobson.

“I have been working on the water for as long as I can remember,” the proud grandson said.

When it came time to choose a path after high school graduation, not surprisingly, Myatt made a sea-related decision with his enrolment in marine navigation technology at the NSCC.

In reflecting on his appetite for the diploma program, he explained how he has learned – through classroom and hands-on training – all aspects of working on a ship as an officer; everything from navigational safety and chart work to meteorology and astronomy.

“There is a lot of math and physics,” Myatt noted, in describing the academic requirements.

Baxter outlined some of the requirements of Myatt’s program – the three-year watch-keeping diploma program, one that provides graduates with the credentials required to practice worldwide as a second or third mate.

He noted that students must complete 12 months of “sea time” before they can complete an oral exam for Transport Canada (TC) and then receive certification.

Myatt said he is looking forward to completing his final eight months of sea-time training – beginning in July – which will include plenty of time “shadowing” officers and working with deckhands.

As summarized at nscc.ca/programs, mandatory sea time “provides students with the opportunity to put their skills and knowledge into practice,” with the TC-required 360 sea days completed from April to August during their diploma studies.

Also, during those three years, students study the major principles of marine navigation, seamanship, meteorology, ship construction and stability, while preparing for a career as a ship’s navigation officer.

To receive their NSCC diploma, cadets must maintain a 90 per cent attendance standard, while also achieving a pass mark of 70 in marine subjects and 60 in academic ones.

The marine navigation program prepares students for careers as ship navigation officers in the commercial marine industry, providing training in areas such as watch keeping practices, seamanship, safety and communications.

It also provides the necessary academic and applied skills training to become an entry-level deck officer under International Maritime Organization standards.

  

Returning the favour

Although he will continue a busy schedule fishing with his grandfather this summer, he told The Journal that has was taking some time to help host their German counterparts that were scheduled for arrive on May 27.

While here, Myatt will be one of the guides for a tour of the Northumberland Ferries ship that travels the Northumberland Strait between Caribou, Nova Scotia and Wood Islands, P.E.I.

“I am really familiar with it,” he said, noting he served as a cadet on the vessel last summer.

As for his time on the ship that connects the two Maritime Provinces, he described it as “extremely busy.”

He added, “But, I really enjoyed it.”

As a cadet, working with the deckhands, there were plenty of “odd jobs,” such as painting, along with tasks, such as directing traffic and tying up the ship. While with the mates, he carried out navigational duties; not to mention operating the ship, once the captain got it in and out of port. Keeping watch – when it came to collision avoidance – along with loading the ship were also mate-related tasks.

Myatt agreed that teamwork is a key component of the field.

“And, you have to learn how to lead a team,” he noted.

Baxter noted that the German visitors will be treated to “big ship stuff” during their time at the Strait Area Campus, including time with the engine room simulators housed at the NSCC’s marine institute. There will also be time spent in the fire school and at the wade pool.

There are also plenty of off-campus adventures planned.

  

‘Very bright future’

As for the future, Myatt – who has targeted the offshore as a place to launch his career – has high aspirations, including becoming a captain.

Nothing his student’s passion, Baxter said he has a “very bright future.”

He added, “Brent can have the best of both worlds,” of having the opportunity not only to work in the industry but also continue his beloved fishing with his grandfather.

Describing him as “incredibly mature and well-spoken,” Baxter noted that Myatt represented himself, his program and school “extremely well.”

As for how his NSCC experience has been a key to helping reach his career goals, Myatt said, “I would recommend it to anybody.”

He added, “It has been everything that I wanted.”