On February 20, the Busy Beavers 4-H Club visited the Calhoon MEBA Engineering School in Easton. MEBA was established in 1966 as a private maritime educational facility for training members of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, as well as all maritime and related industry professionals. Chuck Eser, academic manager of the school, took the group on a tour, and discussed classifications of vessels, including tankers, cargo ships, container ships, freighters, bulk carriers, passenger ships, and roll-on-roll-off (RORO) carriers for transporting automobiles.
The tour included a hands-on demonstration of the simulator room used to train deck officers from merchant marine ships. The training area simulates different types of weather and nautical conditions at various geographic locations. MEBA’s IT specialist, Lee Brown, was the control technician during the demonstration. Simulator training became required after the Exxon Valdez oil spill that occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska in 1989. MEBA installed the simulator in 2004 at a cost of $2 million.
The MEBA training program is a collaborative effort between labor and management and is provided to students free of charge through funding by shipping companies. Each merchant ship is operated by only about 20 people. It is good-paying work, but dangerous and requiring a high degree of skilled and varied training. Besides the simulator certification, students may also receive training in damage control, large engine repair and maintenance, machine shop skills, and firefighting.