updated 9/29/2010 5:46:19 PM ET 2010-09-29T21:46:19

HOUSTON, Sept. 29, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Texas Southern University, in partnership with the Port of Houston Authority, has officially instituted its new degree program in Maritime Transportation Management and Security. Nearly 200 guests, including elected officials and leaders in the private and public maritime industry, convened to learn about and celebrate the new program during a luncheon themed "A Sea of Opportunity" on Monday, September 27, at TSU's new Science Building.

This is the first university degree program related to Maritime Transportation and Security in the Houston area and the first such at any Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the nation. Accredited by the state coordinating board, the TSU maritime degree program curriculum addresses three nationally recognized priorities – logistics, security and environment. The first 33 students enrolled in the program this fall semester.

Port of Houston Authority Commissioner Kase Lawal, a TSU alumnus and recently appointed member of the White House Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, was the keynote speaker at Monday's event. "The Port of Houston Authority and Texas Southern University share a strong interest in nurturing educational opportunities in the maritime field, which offers a broad array of careers," said Lawal. "This is just one more example of TSU's willingness to lead with innovative ideas and programs."

In his remarks, Texas Southern University President Dr. John Rudley stated, "This partnership with the Port of Houston and the members of the maritime industry is tremendous. We couldn't have done this by ourselves. This program will provide numerous opportunities and jobs for our students in the future."

The premier luncheon sponsor, the U.S. Coast Guard, was represented by Sector Houston-Galveston's Commanding Officer Captain Marcus Woodring. "The U.S. Coast Guard is extremely proud to be a partner with Texas Southern University in their new Maritime Transportation, Management and Security degree program," Woodring said. "I cannot think of a university better positioned to offer such a degree. The natural linkage to the Port of Houston's rich maritime heritage and the budding maritime academies at local high schools offer a talented pool of applicants and unparalleled opportunities for post-graduation careers."

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Sylvia Garcia remarked, "This partnership with the port and TSU is about jobs. And in these challenging times, we are serving notice to everyone who will listen.  We are not sitting still.  We are planning for new growth, new jobs and a bright future."

According to Port Commission Chairman James T. Edmonds, the Maritime Transportation Management and Security degree program at Texas Southern University "represents a wise investment that is already providing a return of tremendous benefits for Houston's port and maritime industry and paves the way for future generations to continue relying on the port as an economic engine of prosperity."

The Port of Houston Authority is also collaborating with Houston ISD and several maritime industry partners on the Port of Houston Maritime Academy. The initiative debuted in fall 2009 at Stephen F. Austin and Jack Yates high schools, and about 250 students have completed the first year of the program. The program continues to help students learn about the many opportunities in the maritime industry and the educational paths toward a range of fulfilling, well-paying careers, such as:

  • freight logistics specialist
  • shipping manager
  • port manager/operator
  • port security officer
  • maritime policy maker
  • maritime transportation planner
  • environmental compliance coordinator
  • emergency response specialist

The need for a specialized and sophisticated workforce is critical throughout the global maritime industry and at the Port of Houston in particular. According to recent studies, Houston's port generates more than 785,000 jobs and nearly $118 billion in economic activity in the region annually. More than 7,700 vessel and 150,000 barge calls occur at the port every year. Overall, the port is a large and vibrant component of the regional and national economy.

The Port of Houston Authority owns and operates the public facilities located along the Port of Houston, the 25-mile-long complex of diversified public and private facilities designed for handling general cargo, containers, grain and other dry bulk materials, project and heavy lift cargo, and other types of cargo. Each year, there are more than 7,700 vessel calls at the port, which ranks first in the U.S. in foreign waterborne tonnage and second in overall total tonnage. The port authority plays a vital role in ensuring navigational safety along the Houston Ship Channel, which has been instrumental in Houston's development as a center of international trade. The Barbours Cut Container Terminal and Central Maintenance Facility are the first of any U.S. port facilities to develop and implement an innovative Environmental Management System that meets the rigorous standards of ISO 14001. The second recertification of those facilities in 2009 included an extension for the state-of-the-art Bayport Container Terminal. The port authority is the first port authority in the world to receive ISO 28000:2007 certification for its port police and the perimeter security operations at both the Barbours Cut and Bayport Terminals. Additionally, the port is an approved delivery point for Coffee "C" futures contracts traded on the New York Board of Trade's Coffee, Sugar & Cocoa Exchange. For more information, please visit www.portofhouston.com

To access the port's Web site photo gallery, please visit http://www.portofhouston.com/publicrelations/publicrelations.html and click the link for Port Authority Photo Gallery

The Port of Houston Authority logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=720

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