Floating campus crossing Atlantic for Galway


A FLOATING campus is en route across the Atlantic to Galway this week on the first leg of an international “semester at sea”.

More than 500 students, academics and crew will be on board when the MV Explorer makes its first visit to Ireland.

The 180m (590ft) ship is run by a not-for-profit initiative, the Institute for Shipboard Education, in co-operation with the University of Virginia in the US.

NUI Galway has sent postgraduate researcher in marine science Sarah Cosgrove to make the voyage from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

An invitation to the MV Explorer was issued by Galway harbour master Capt Brian Sheridan during a visit to the US several years ago to promote the west coast port as a cruise ship destination.

Capt Sheridan was taken by the “semester at sea” concept, which dates from 1963 and involves more than 250 US and international colleges. The programme allows students to receive course credits while competing fieldwork at sea.

The current ship, MV Explorer,takes a “world is your campus” approach to its itinerary, with several voyages each year. In past years, the organisation has sent students to the former Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cuba and Burma, and participants have met leaders including Cuba’s Fidel Castro, India’s Indira Gandhi, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the late Philippine president Corazon Aquino and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.

The ship’s latest voyage takes in England, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Dominica after leaving Ireland.

One of the ship’s courses is called Unreasonable at Sea, which aims to be an “international accelerator” for students of entrepreneurship who will get a chance to “sail, work and learn from some of the world’s most renowned innovators and mentors”. Before leaving Galway to join the ship in Halifax, Ms Cosgrove was “delighted and honoured” at the opportunity. She has to earn her berth, as she will be expected to present information on the west of Ireland and guide students while in port.

At 25,000 tons, the MV Explorer will be too large to dock in the tidal port and will anchor in Galway Bay.

Last week two cruise liners carrying some 1,400 passengers and crew visited the port.

Galway Harbour Company hopes to lodge an application under the EU Habitats Directive for its €126 million four-phase port expansion plan if it is given approval to take this route.