SUNY Maritime students voyage to Puerto Rico as part of school’s training program

The Empire State VII before it left port at Olivet Pier within the SUNY Maritime campus on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024.
The Empire State VII before it left port at Olivet Pier within the SUNY Maritime campus on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024.
Photo Steven Goodstein

More than 200 SUNY Maritime students recently took a two-and-a-half week trip to Puerto Rico as part of the school’s winter ship training program.

The Empire State VII ship initially left port at Olivet Pier, within the SUNY Maritime campus, with the students on the afternoon of Wednesday, Jan. 10, to begin their journey, which started in the East River and continued down the Atlantic Ocean en route for Puerto Rico.

The program gave the students the opportunity to experience hands-on training in an actual scenario while aboard the ship, with real life circumstances in an academic environment that could eventually lead to career paths as a naval aviator, submarine officer and a Marine Corps officer, among other opportunities.

According to SUNY Maritime Parents Association president Jeannine Timpone, the program gives students who participate “the skills needed to be set up for life at sea.”

Timpone’s son Francis is currently a sophomore at SUNY Maritime studying for his bachelor’s of science in mechanical engineering with a license degree.

“I’m so proud and excited that my son has an opportunity to be part of our new training ships program,” Timpone said. “He has come to this college to learn and be prepared with hopes of leaving with a great job opportunity within the maritime industry.”

She added that the Empire State VII ship had encountered a storm 0n its journey to Puerto Rico during a portion of the five-day trip to the United States commonwealth.

Timpone, who described the SUNY Maritime academic body as “having great structure” also thanked the maritime administration for making this experience possible for all the students who partook in the training ships program.

“Not only is the SUNY Maritime campus beautiful, but so, too, are the students, teachers and parents who make up the campus,” Timpone said.

Rich Colangelo, father of another SUNY Maritime sophomore, Ava, says that with SUNY Maritime’s alumni networking services, along with a 98% school employment rate — [which matches up with a SUNY article from 2015 and a 2022 article from money.com  — a successful future after college is almost guaranteed f0r the students.

“A lot of times, college students are earning their bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, which could lead to a lot of different career paths,” said Colangelo. “At Maritime, the students know the reason why they’re at the school, and what jobs and career paths they’re going to pursue in order to guarantee a future of success within the maritime industry.”

Colangelo added that SUNY Maritime “gives the students a sense of purpose and a sense of being” and that it “keeps them straight and narrow as well as goal-orientated.”

After a four-day voyage down the Atlantic Ocean, the Empire State VII arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Monday, Jan. 14.

The stay in Puerto Rico was longer than originally anticipated —about one week long — and many of the students enjoyed their stay and took time to explore local historic sites, including Old San Juan.

SUNY Maritime student Ava Colangelo, left, enjoys the sunset on the Atlantic Ocean with other students during their trip to Puerto Rico in January 2024. Photo courtesy Ava Coangelo

“It was a different experience and a new feeling. I had never been there before this trip,” said Ava Colangelo, who had also traveled to Hawaii by ship this past summer as part of Cal Maritime‘s summer term training ships program in California.

Ava Colangelo, whose major is marine transportation with a deck license, said that a SUNY Maritime freshman student is referred to as a “MUG” or a “mariner under guidance.” Now, as a sophomore, she’s part of the training staff helping this year’s section of freshman students get more adjusted and acclimated to a regimented lifestyle while on the ship, on the other side of the college experience.

Ava Colangelo’s duties throughout the trip mostly included maintenance, cleaning and other upkeep of the vessel.

The Empire State VII is a National Security Multi-Mission Vessel (NSMV) equipped with hospital facilities along with a helicopter landing pad to transport individuals on the ship if needed, according to Ava Colangelo.

According to SUNY Maritime’s website, the Empire State VII replaced the college’s previous training ship, the Empire State VI, which was built in 1962 and has been used to educate and train students since 1989.

The Empire State VII also has training spaces — which includes eight classrooms, a full training bridge, workshops, lab spaces, and an auditorium, and is expandable to house up to 1,000 people for up to two weeks in times of humanitarian need, among other features, according to SUNY Maritime’s website.

The exterior of the Empire State VII, which took 200 SUNY Maritime students to Puerto Rico earlier this month. Photo courtesy Ava Coangelo

Ava Colangelo added that the Empire State VII is built for both training circumstances as well as real scenarios when out at sea. She said she also learned how to give a patient stitches and staples from one of the doctors on board during some down time on the ship. She didn’t actually need to perform stitches, thankfully, as there were no occurrences of injuries during the two-and-a-half  week voyage.

After about a week in San Juan, the Empire State VII ship and its 200 SUNY Maritime students turned around and headed back to the New York, arriving back at the Bronx college campus on Jan. 27.

“The first night was a little rough and challenging, especially for some of us who are new to sailing, but in the end it was an experience that we all enjoyed and valued,” Ava Colangelo added.

SUNY Maritime was established more than 150 years ago, in April 1873, when it was known as the New York Nautical School. In January 1875, 26 students boarded the St. Mary’s, SUNY Maritime’s first training ship, and soon after departed on the school’s first training cruise.


Reach Steven Goodstein at [email protected] or (718) 260–8326. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes