Pune: It’s the last place on earth anyone would expect to find a ship—in a valley in the middle of a mountain range located almost at the geographical centre of Maharashtra.

Still, there it stands, all 35 metres of it, with engines that actually run. The ship isn’t ready yet, but soon will be and become a training ground for the Samudra Institute of Maritime Studies’ new campus in the hill town of Lonavala near Pune.

The training ship being built at the campus of the Samudra Institute of Maritime Studies, Lonavala

Executive Ship Management can afford to spend around Rs80 crore on what is essentially a training institute because of the boom in global shipping that had forced many shipyards in Japan and Korea to actually turn away orders, and resulted in several Indian firms investing in ship-building facilities.

The growth in the Indian economy—it grew by 9.4% last year and 9.3% in the first quarter of this year—has resulted in a growth in the number of ships calling at Indian ports to load or unload cargo. And even as new ports and container terminals come up in India, existing ports are deepening their channels in an attempt to get larger ships with more cargo to call. All that translates into more ships and a demand for more people to man them.

The Indian government and entrepreneurs such as Teeka see this as an opportunity. In 2002, the government allowed private investment in maritime education. In the seven years between 1998 and 2005, the number of maritime training schools went up from four to 128. In 2006, India contributed 6% of the world’s seafarers—26,950 officers and 55,650 ratings—according to a 2007 report by a committee appointed by the shipping ministry.

By 2015, the report says, the world will have a shortage of 62,000 officers and 69,000 ratings. According to the report, India wants to retain its 6% share, and build on it by supplying 20% of the shortfall. That would imply that the country has to produce 5,386 officers and 4,840 ratings a year.

The numbers explain the investment and the ship.

“While the directorate of shipping lays down comprehensive guidelines about the training to be provided to cadets (as students of shipping schools are called) headed out to sea to be employed on the deck and engineering side, this is the first time that a training institute is actually building a ship on land so that maritime students can have hands-on training on all critical equipment," said Sikha Singh, director, Executive Ship Management and head of human resources and crew management.

The ship is currently undergoing final touches at a man-made lake at the campus located in the Sahyadiri valley. The stern of the ship, purpose-built purely for maritime training, will have equipment bought from companies in Japan and elsewhere, including custom-built simulators as opposed to off-the-shelf simulators, Singh claimed.

The ship may be stationary, but it mimics a real vessel and provides the kind of training experience that has not been available to cadets until now, she added.

Although, Samudra has been in the training business since 2002, it has largely functioned as an in-house training arm for Executive Ship Management. It currently manages 60 ships.

The institute’s new campus is located on 55 acres of land. Apart from training in the campus for a year, deck cadets (those who work on the decks) will serve on ships for at least 18 months before they qualify as merchant navy officers.

Engineering cadets will spend six months on campus and an equal period on board a ship. The campus, and the ship, open for training on 1 November.