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Great Lakes Maritime Academy
Logo GLMA.png
Established 1969
Type Public
Location Traverse City, MI, USA

The Great Lakes Maritime Academy at Northwestern Michigan College is an institution for students wanting a civilian career in the merchant marine as either a Deck or Engineering Officer. Located on West Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City, Michigan, the academy was established in 1969 to train men and women to be licensed mariners on ships of unlimited tonnage or horsepower; including research vessels, cruise ships, freighters. One of only six state maritime academies in the country, the Great Lakes Maritime Academy is unique in that it is the only freshwater maritime academy. In addition, it is the only maritime academy in the United States that offers the opportunity to its graduates to obtain licensing to pilot both the Great Lakes and the oceans. [1]



The Academy is located in Traverse City, Michigan on Grand Traverse Bay in Lake Michigan.


The Great Lakes Maritime Academy was established in 1969 to provide education and training to those wanting a career in the merchant marine. The academy trains Mates (pilots), and maritime engineers. since it's founding, the academy has undegone numerous improvements in technology, facilities and training ships. The most radical of these improvements occurred in 2001 with the cronstruction of a new main building. The Academy began demolition of its former buildings in the early fall of 2001 and moved into temporary quarters in the summer of 2002 while construction continued on the new maritime campus. The summer of 2002 brought the arrival of the 224’ training ship, a former Navy vessel, now named the T/S State of Michigan. During the construction of the new facility, the T/S State of Michigan provided additional classroom and lab environments that allowed cadets, faculty and staff to remain on site during the entire construction process. Exceeding the expectations of all, the Academy moved into the new facility late fall of 2003. Originally dedicated in October 23, 1972 [2] the Academy harbor was next on the list for improvements and reconstruction began in 2004. The harbor was completely rebuilt and expanded to better accommodate the T/S State of Michigan and the Academy’s three smaller vessels. Appropriately named the “Alumni Light”, the Great Lakes Maritime Academy Alumni Association provided funding to place a large green harbor light atop the 40 foot tall former aftermast of the T/S State of Michigan at the northwest corner of the Academy’s harbor. The harbor was completed in 2005, and concluded the construction of the modern campus now home to the Great Lakes Maritime Academy where the T/S State of Michigan is moored only 150 feet from the buildings rear.


The Great Lakes Maritime Academy, in partnership with Ferris State University, provides cadets their needed maritime credentials and also a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration. The dual-degree program is believed to enable graduates to be better prepared for management level positions aboard ship or shore side. Individuals who are admitted to the Academy with a previously obtained Bachelor’s degree are not required to complete the four-year Business Administration degree, (but may choose to do so). Instead, they will enroll in a three year maritime core curriculum in either Deck or Engineering. This program integrates two years of maritime curriculum and up to three 90-day semesters at sea. The option of a Master's Degree in Business Administration (MBA) through Ferris State University is also available with the maritime core curriculum. Upon completion of course work and sea projects, Deck Cadets write the U.S. Coast Guard examinations for licensing as a Third Mate Great Lakes and Oceans Unlimited Tonnage and First Class Great Lakes Pilot. Engineering cadets write the U.S. Coast Guard examination for licensing as a Third Assistant Engineer, Steam and Motor Vessels of any Horsepower. Graduates are fully compliant with STCW '95 (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping). The college is approved by the U.S. Maritime Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Michigan Department of Education. A new class begins each year in mid-August (fall semester).

Sea Projects

Maritime cadets participate in commercial Sea Projects [3] (semesters at sea) while in attendance at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy. These sea projects are arranged by the Academy with shipping companies on either the Great Lakes or oceans. During sea projects, assignments are regularly completed and sent back to Academy instructors by cadets. Deck cadets who wish to pursue an oceans license in addition to the Third Mate Great Lakes and First Class Great Lakes Pilot licenses will complete one of their sea projects aboard a commercial ocean vessel. It is not required for Engineering cadets to complete an ocean sea project, but they may choose to do so. Sea projects are spent aboard commercial ships to best prepare cadets for the real life occupation of a merchant mariner. The first hand experience of loading and unloading cargo and troubleshooting electrical and mechanical issues while underway utilizes the hands-on instruction the cadets receive in classroom and lab environment at the Academy. In addition, the T/S State of Michigan is used to educate cadets of shipboard etiquette and the lifestyle aboard ship. Time spent aboard the T/S State of Michigan does count towards the necessary sea project time required for each program. Cadets must also complete shore-side sea days with the T/S State of Michigan. Tasks for shore-side sea days include necessary vessel inspection to ensure continued STCW ’95 compliance.

Training Ship

Originally launched in 1985 [4] as the USNS Persistent, the T/S State of Michigan was commissioned as a Stalwart Class Tactical Auxiliary General Ocean Surveillance Ship (T-AGOS). 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 1990’s, when the Soviet threat was no longer a concern, the Navy opted to decommission the T-AGOS fleet. In 1998, the USNS Persistent and her sister ship, the USNS Vindicator were transferred to the United States Coast Guard to be used in drug regulation. Even after overhauls to the USNS Persistent, she was determined to be too slow to keep up with the drug policing and became available to other government agencies.

USNS Persistent

The Great Lakes Maritime Academy worked with the U.S. Maritime Administration to negotiate a transfer of the vessel to the Academy harbor. 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, whose name was changed to the T/S State of Michigan by the Great Lakes Maritime Academy, departed for the Great Lakes by way of the St. Lawrence Seaway. 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. [5]

Ship specifications [6]

  • Length: 224 ft.
  • Beam: 43 ft.
  • Draft: 15ft.
  • Speed: 11 knots
  • Displacement: 1,565 tons (light) and 2,535 tons (full)
  • Underway fuel consumption: 100 gallons/hr.
  • Power Plant: Diesel-electric; 4 Caterpillar D 398 diesel generators,

3,200hp, 2 motors, 1,600hp; 2 shafts; bow thruster; 550 hp

Sailing Team

The Great Lakes Maritime Academy's Sailing Team operates a fleet of Flying Scots sailboats on West Grand Traverse Bay and participates in intercollegiate regattas across the country. Within close proximity to the Academy are a number of recreational harbors and yacht clubs that organize additional sailing events throughout the season allowing the cadets to improve their skills.

External links




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