Written by Lt. Cmdr. Mark Sawyer, World Maritime University.
The nation’s marine transportation system – including its ports, waterways and vessels – handles more than $900 billion in international commerce every year. The Coast Guard remains committed to this global maritime industry and one Coast Guardsman who is ensuring the service remains steadfast in making shipping a safer, more secure and environmentally friendly operation is Lt. Patrick Armstrong.
Earlier this month, Armstrong became the first active duty Coast Guardsmen to graduate from World Maritime University in Malmö, Sweden. Although the Coast Guard has supported the World Maritime University since 1987, this is the first time the Coast Guard has sponsored a student for a postgraduate degree.
While attending the university, Armstrong shared his diverse experiences as a Coast Guard officer while he learned from other students’ best practices and challenges facing the maritime industry in other regions around the world.
Since shipping is a global industry, the student body at World Maritime University serves as a representation of the global maritime community – Armstrong’s graduating class included 104 students from 46 different countries. He not only experienced the life and culture of living in Sweden, but also gained perspectives from fellow students with varying cultures, experiences and viewpoints.
Armstrong specialized in shipping management where he learned about the intricacies of global commerce; the complexity of the global shipping market; the challenges of global logistics and supply chain management; the major stakeholders with vested interest in port management and operations; and current issues in shipping.
During Armstrong’s time at the university, he became intimately familiar with the challenges the shipping industry is currently facing, and he and his classmates became better equipped with dealing with these issues upon leaving WMU.
As an example, the university hosted two international conferences. One focused on oil spill risk management and managing the added risk of drilling in deeper or Arctic waters. The other was an international conference on piracy at sea – resulting in the Malmö Declaration – focusing on the impact piracy has had on the international shipping industry with particular emphasis on seafarers and their families.
Additionally, Armstrong contributed to the success of the university’s first World Maritime Day event. The event, centered around the International Maritime Organization‘s theme of “Piracy: Orchestrating the Response,” involved public lectures and a “Walk Against Piracy” through the streets of Malmö to educate the general public and stakeholders on the significant risks and adverse effects of maritime piracy.
With the maritime industry being globally connected, Armstrong and his classmates also traveled in the field to put their studies to use. From Singapore to Greece, he was able to witness firsthand the global supply chain at work and see various management tools and techniques used to make the most effective use of technology, resources and port infrastructure for safe and efficient shipping. The field studies also helped Armstrong understand the key relationships in managing the mutual interests of a well-maintained maritime transportation system and ensuring vessels and ports are operating in a safe, efficient manner so as to facilitate maritime commerce.
Armstrong leaves behind Malmö, World Maritime University and his classmates as he returns to the United States. But, while he leaves Malmö behind, he also enters into a network of more than 3,000 alumni, most serving in key positions throughout the international maritime community. This network enhances the Coast Guard’s ability to carry out its missions as it builds upon relationships to collectively enhance maritime safety, security and environmental protection.