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Burma's Maritime University gaining popularity

Reported by: Monday, August 9th, 2010

Students from the Myanmar Maritime University march in a parade in Rangoon

Kong Janoi, IMNA : Staff members at the Myanmar Maritime University report that increasing numbers of students are applying for the university’s programs, despite the school’s increasingly competitive admission standards.

The Myanmar Maritime University, located in Thanlyin city on the outskirts of Rangoon, is  controlled by the Burmese government’s Ministry of Transport. The university was founded in 2002, and according to its official website, aims to produce qualified  “Naval Architects, Ocean Engineers, Marine Engineers, Marine Electrical Systems and Electronic Engineers, Port and Habour Engineers, River and Coastal Engineers and Navigation Officers.”

A staff member informed IMNA that seats at the university are given to 450 students, based on their university entrance examination results, an exam that students take at the close of high school. Candidates must apply through the country’s university’s entrance application process, in which they prioritize which courses of study available in Burma they would like to enroll in.

Admittance is not based on test scores alone; the staff member interviewed told IMNA that the university was only opened up to female applicants in 2008, and only 90 students out of a class of 450 individuals are allowed to be women.

The staff member interviewed claimed that women are not believed to have the physical fitness needed for a career in Burma’s maritime industry, and are therefore only admitted to majors related to onshore employment, such as port management. “Generally speaking, women are weak in physicality. So as seaman need to be strong, they [Burma's Ministry of Transport] will not allow females to go to sea and has limited number the of [female] students who can enter the university.”

A Rangoon-based journalist stated that Burma’s maritime industry represents an area where the country needs to strive for gender-equality.

“There are many jobs in shipping that women can do. Besides this is not a relevant reason to say that women are weak because there are many strong women who can do the job better than men. This is not fair for women.”

A mother of two from Rangoon informed IMNA that concern for her daughter’s welfare caused her to prevent her female child from applying to the Maritime University; she says felt no such concern for her son, who is a graduate of the university and who now works in Burma’s shipping industry. This woman claims that the salaries earned by maritime workers far exceed those of most Burmese citizens.

“As you know, there is a lack of job opportunities in our country, when we think which job can earn more,  it is only a job as a seaman,” she explained.  “As soon as you are on board, you will earn 1,000 USD a month, which is a big amount of money for us. We were very happy when our son sent back money last month.”

This woman also reported that working on different shipping routes earned maritime workers varying salary amounts.

“My son has gone with the “East Way” line which is shipping from Burma to western countries, like France. This line is better. Some shipping lines within Asia, [the workers] can earn less. You have to know this before you choose the line. It is expensive to start getting work on those better paying ships [because bribes are necessary],” she added.

Students who fail to gain admittance to the Maritime University are not totally devoid of options.  Under the amendments made to the Myanmar Merchant Shipping Act in 2007, individuals can apply to one of Burma’s many shipping lines for an apprenticeship, after which they may receive a “certificate of competence”.

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