The region has big ambitions for its maritime ports, vessel ownership and management.
Middle Eastern countries have grand ambitions for their maritime sectors, from ports right through to vessel ownership and management.
However, the region has for some years lacked the educational establishments necessary to churn out a regular and qualified supply of maritime professionals.
"This year 240 students enrolled in IMCO. Without question our graduate capture and student intake shows promising growth."
Sander Wubbolts, marketing manager of the International Maritime College Oman (IMCO) explains that this is changing fast thanks to the college.
What is the IMCO's background?
IMCO has been set up to alleviate some of the burden on forthcoming and existing projects in Oman and the Gulf region.
The college educates and trains deck officers, marine engineering officers, port shipping and transport managers and process operators.
Through this IMCO tries to fill the (anticipated) shortage that will result from the ever-expanding port, shipping, transport, oil, gas and related process industries in Oman and the region.
Being unique in Oman and the GCC region, IMCO offers the following education and training programmes for the port, shipping, transport and petro-chemical process industries: Foundation, Deck Officer, Marine Engineering Officer, Port, Shipping and Transport Management and Operation Technology.
IMCO offers short courses mainly for professionals from the relevant industries. Participants do not only come from Oman, but also from elsewhere in the Gulf region, particularly from Qatar and the UAE.
We offer more than 70 short courses. IMCO is one of our international landmarks operating regionally; one must join to survive in an increasingly competitive global market.
The STC-Group and the Government of the Sultanate of Oman are the founding fathers and owners of the education and training institute.
What are the intake numbers like in a typical year?
In September 2005 we received our first batch of around 160 students. For the academic year 2007-2008 about 240 students enrolled our college which brings the total number to almost 520.
Without question our graduate capture and student intake shows promising growth.
How have you marketed the college?
We have marketed our programmes and short courses through direct contact with potential students at exhibitions (GETEX, GHEDEX) and direct contact with the relevant industries.
Also, in the beginning we benefited from great support from the government as well.
Would you describe the colleges output so far as a success?
Absolutely. It is definitely a success. For the moment we are still located at a temporary location in Muscat.
As soon as our final building is finished in the Port of Sohar we expect our college to accelerate in both its size and the scope of what we can do here even more.
Are careers at sea harder to promote to young people today?
The Sultanate has a rich seafaring tradition. One of the reasons IMCO has been established was to start the education and training again in order to revitalise the sector there.
What might hold candidates back from subscribing maritime related studies is that the job requires them to work hard and not seeing their families for quite some time - one cannot just get off a ship.
On the other hand, the career path plus the salaries Captains and Chief Engineers can earn on board of a ship, and the fact that jobs can almost be guaranteed because of the (growing!) shortage of seafarers, means many candidates do take the step and start their career with IMCO.
Are regional ports and shipping companies receptive to graduates?
The first batch of diploma holders will graduate in summer 2008 so real figures we do not yet have, but the outlook seems to be good, not only in Oman, but also in the region.
What should also be taken into account is that Oman based companies have to comply with the rules and regulations set out under the Omanisation programme. The Omani population is expected to grow strongly the in the coming decade and people are looking for jobs.
All courses cover both theoretical aspects and hands-on practical work as they are designed to match the needs of the relevant industries. IMCO provides competent people with the skills demanded in the industry.