By Shamar Blunt
A new pilot programme is coming soon to train young people in the art of local boatbuilding.
The Boat Building Training Pilot is being organised by the Ministry of the Blue Economy in partnership with the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology (SJPI) and the Barbados Vocational Training Board (BVTB).
During a brief media launch at the Fisheries Division in Bridgetown on Friday, Chief Fisheries Officer Dr Shelly-Ann Cox said the initiative, which is the first of its kind here, will expose participants to the various aspects of boatbuilding.
“This initiative is an interactive and hands-on [project]. We will have some theory, but a majority of the 16 weeks of the activity will be hands-on experiences with the shipwrights themselves at Oistins in Christ Church and in Bridgetown. They will be exposed to different wooden boatbuilding styles but they also will be exposed to some fibreglass work as well,” she explained.
Dr Cox noted that though it is not widely known, the boatbuilding culture is a large part of the island’s history and the ministry’s hope is that this programme and other initiatives will go a long way in maintaining the craft for future generations.
“Our mandate at Fisheries [Division] is to protect and sustainably manage the resources, and you can’t really get fish without seaworthy boats. We should be proud of the craftsmanship that our shipwrights have. Online, there is a 1977 article that says there were over 40 shipwrights at the time and today . . . there are only 12 shipwrights living and only seven of them are active.
“I want in five years to hear that we have 50, 100 shipwrights on the island, not only mastering the wooden craftsmanship but also the fibreglass and the other boating styles,” Dr Cox said.
SJPI principal Ian Drakes said the boatbuilding programme was part of the “exciting times” at the Pine, St Michael campus.
He also revealed that students were embarking on new sustainable technologies that can be implemented to power fishing vessels.
“The SJPI is starting to think about what we call an e-vessel. We started a project where we are looking at you [not] having to use diesel and gasoline, and we started that with the Korean government about three years ago.
“We are going to be looking to add that into this partnership, where the fisherfolk are going to be able to use the solar rays to get [power],” Drakes said.