This month the torch passes from one leader to another at Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) Center for Maritime Education in Houston, Texas. Captain Stephen Polk, Instructor and Assistant Director at SCI since 2007, will assume the position of Director at SCI’s Center for Maritime Education Gulf Region, following the retirement of Captain William Douglas from the position at the end of July.
SCI’s center in Houston is a maritime training facility for inland, coastal, and deep-sea mariners. As part of its mission, SCI maintains education as one of the three arms of its outreach along with legal advocacy and chaplaincy. “SCI uses education to improve safety and the quality of life for mariners, assisting men and women working in the industry to serve with skill, pride, and professionalism” says Eric Larsson, Director of SCI’s Maritime Education.
Training at the center in Houston and at SCI’s center in Paducah, KY utilizes advanced, computer-based simulation to meet training needs of professional mariners. In September 2007, SCI installed a second simulator in Houston, doubling the potential for instruction at the center, where demand for training was already high. The director of SCI’s Houston center schedules training at least one year in advance due to high demand. The director also coordinates marketing efforts with companies and individuals for capital improvements. This means that the director works collectively with the community and the Port Authority to determine the needs and interests of the industry and mariners for training and professional development.
According to Eric Larsson, the position of director is a substantial responsibility. The director is in charge of most things to do with the office, some 1,600 miles away from SCI’s headquarters in New York, accountable to the needs of more than 1,000 mariners per year. “We looked at Stephen’s background of experience and education. It’s a unique combination,” says Larsson. “It gives him the perspective of the breadth and depth of the maritime industry.”
Raymond Butler, Executive Director of the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association, an advocacy group for the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway based in Friendswood, TX and for whom Captain Polk worked previously at Kirby Inland Marine. LP, believes too that Stephen has a winning combination. “You would look long and hard to find somebody that is as dedicated as him. I’m glad that he’ll be sharing his values and leadership with more people.”
Captain Stephen Polk is a 1997 graduate of Texas A&M University at Galveston and holds a B.S. in Marine Transportation. He has various maritime experiences, working on the inland waterways with towing vessels, on the gulf coast, and on tankers working coastwise and deep sea. Before joining SCI, he was a Senior Port Captain for Kirby Inland Marine, LP and managed several types of inland towing vessels in the Canal Division.
Polk is also a veteran of the US Navy, holding the rank of LCDR. He has logged over 10,000 hours of tactical and underway command experience while protecting ports and performing escorts of MSC and Navy warships in and out of various harbors worldwide. This experience of security training is a new addition to the knowledge-base of SCI’s instructors.
Stephen lives in Pearland, Texas with his wife Suzanne and their two boys. He will assume his new duties and responsibilities at the Center for Maritime Education located inside the Port of Houston complex as the new director in August. Larsson notes, “Stephen is dynamic and engaging. He’ll carry the torch well for SCI.”