Eighteen-year-old Oregon resident Paul Cox III has a plan — to spend a lifetime studying, working and traveling the Great Lakes.
So far, he has stayed on course.
Cox, a senior at The Maritime Academy of Toledo, is the first cadet from the downtown Toledo school to be accepted into a maritime college or university. Cox plans to attend the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Michigan in the fall.
| Oregon resident and Maritime Academy of Toledo senior Paul Cox III in front of
the T/S State of Michigan. (Press photo by Ken Grosjean)
When he graduates from college, he will have the rank of “Third Mate – Oceans and Great Lakes.”
“We are very proud of Paul Cox,” said Renee Marazon, president, The Maritime Academy of Toledo.
“He was part of our Career Tech Education Program for the past three years. We have had other cadets complete that training. Most have chosen to go to traditional colleges or universities, military service, or seek employment in the maritime industry.
“Paul is the first to apply and be accepted into at a maritime college or university where he can earn a degree specific to the maritime industry. He has a very exciting future ahead of him. We know he will do well.”
Cox says he will miss his fellow students and instructors in Toledo, who he says are like “family.” Yet, he is looking forward to advancing his education in the same industry he got to study while in high school.
He is confident that the Maritime Academy of Toledo has prepared him well.
“We have the opportunity from the high school to go work on the Great Lakes — they give us the credentials and everything while we are there,” Cox said.
“To go to a college, you renew your credentials while you’re there and basically you rank up from college because you’ve earned the stuff in a classroom. So, basically, instead of being an able-bodied seaman on the lower end of the totem pole you graduate with a third mate’s license. So, you test much higher and the pay increases as well.”
Cox says one of the reasons he chooses to be involved in the industry is because of the economic benefits it brings to Toledo and the local economy.
Plus, it’s always been a passion of his. He was home-schooled until enrolling in The Maritime Academy of Toledo in the eighth grade. When he returns from college, he wants to bring that passion for the industry back with him.
“I’ve always been interested in maritime, and basically my essential plan is to sail for a good amount of years, and come back and teach, which I would say my end result would be,” Cox said.
He says working while traveling the Great Lakes has other advantages — such as the seasonal work, which will allow him some freedom.
“The ability to travel is the biggest thing, and the other thing I like about the industry is when you are home, you are home,” Cox said.
“Obviously, there are no calls coming from the office or anything like that. When you are off for two weeks, you are off for two weeks. That’s nice. You only work for a little bit more than half of the year, every year, especially if you are on the Great Lakes because you have the time of the year (winter) when everything is closed, and you can’t go anywhere in the boat. There are a lot of other perks to the industry.”
Those perks include an increasing demand for maritime workers. The college advertises that the Great Lakes and oceans maritime industry “offers challenging and rewarding opportunities for ship officers.”
Based on recent annual employment reports filed by the largest Great Lakes and oceans operators, the college says there is an almost insatiable demand for new officers each year to fill positions aboard their vessels. Industry demand is based on vacancies resulting from officer retirements, shore side opportunities, fleet expansion and the increasing demand for unlimited freight tonnage.
The Great Lakes Academy seeks to admit 60 to 75 cadets into its licensing programs each year to meet known demand for officer jobs afloat as well as maritime related jobs ashore. Shore side opportunities such as transportation management, port management, ship surveying, import/export industries, federal government and ship brokerage positions are in high demand.
Interacting with college cadets
On Wednesday, Cox was among a dozen Maritime Academy of Toledo students and two instructors aboard the T/S State of Michigan who made the trip to its next port of call in Detroit. This is the first time Maritime Academy of Toledo cadets were allowed to travel onboard the T/S State of Michigan and interact with Great Lakes Academy cadets.
The T/S State of Michigan, the training ship for the Great Lakes Maritime Academy, arrived during the early evening hours on Memorial Day, May 26 and docked in front of The Maritime Academy at 803 Water Street in downtown Toledo. It was the T/S State of Michigan’s third annual trip to Toledo.
On May 27, cadets at The Maritime Academy of Toledo and students from other Northwest Ohio school districts were given a tour of the ship and learned about educational opportunities at The Great Lakes Maritime Academy.
T/S State of Michigan is the 224-foot former Navy submarine surveillance ship Persistent. The ship was originally launched in 1985 as the USNS Persistent (T-AGOS-6) and was commissioned as a Stalwart class Tactical Auxiliary General Ocean Surveillance Ship (TAGOS).
She was built as an ocean submarine surveillance vessel to tow highly sensitive sonar arrays to track Soviet submarines during the Cold War. In the 1990s, when the Soviet threat was no longer a concern, the Navy opted to decommission the TAGOS fleet.
In the summer of 2002, the USNS Persistent underwent maintenance and additional overhaul to prepare her for her new freshwater home. In August 2002, the vessel’s name was changed to T/S State of Michigan by the Great Lakes Maritime Academy. The training ship is now used as a daily laboratory environment and is also used underway allowing cadets to put into practice the theory and skills they have learned prior to their commercial sea projects.
When Cox arrives at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in the fall, he will get to know the T/S State of Michigan well.
“This ship that we just toured, it’s basically a big part of their sea project, so when you get your sea days, is what you call it — you have to work so many days on the lakes or ocean before you get hired by a company, so we get that done in the four years that we are there,” Cox said. “And, we got a lot of other instruction that pertains to the industry. It’s just a big help, that’s for sure.”
Although Cox received his acceptance letter, like attending any private college, he knows that meeting tuition costs will be a challenge and he hopes to be able to avoid taking out student loans.
“It seems to be working out fairly well,” Cox said. “Like any other college student, I still have some financial stuff to figure out, but other than that everything seems to be working in my favor.
“It’s going to be an expensive four years, that’s for sure. Anything from anybody I appreciate, whether it’s thoughts, prayers, or even monetary, it doesn’t matter. It’s going to be rough paying for it, but I’m going to pay for it one way or another.”