Posted by U.S. Vice-Consul Stephen MacLeod
Before going to Odessa, I was asked several times by colleagues, “Why are you going to Odessa in the winter? You need to go there in the summer.” I began to understand what they meant when our plane touched down and the pilot told us it was minus nine degrees Celsius–much colder than it was in Kyiv.
And so began a recent trip to Odessa with my colleague from the consular section, Oleksiy Salivon. Our trip had three purposes: to provide consular services to Americans living in Odessa and the surrounding area; to meet with several of the leading maritime crewing agencies; and, to discuss changes to the Summer Work and Travel Exchange Program with students and media.
We met with American citizens in the morning, and then we began a busy schedule of meetings with the crewing agencies as well as the Odessa National Maritime Academy. The professionalism, business savvy and attitudes of all the agencies was impressive. Competition among the agencies is keen and they clearly understand they are in the people business—recruiting and managing professional mariners who work on vessels around the globe. According to various estimates, there are about 60,000 active Ukrainian maritime workers and half of them live in Odessa alone. The demand for qualified sailors is growing, and keeping pace will be a challenge, but it’s clear the increased demand brings tremendous opportunities as well both for these companies and for Ukraine
Our final stop was the Window on America at the Odessa State Science Library where we discussed recent changes to the Summer Work and Travel Program. There were a number of questions from media and students about this popular program and we were able to answer almost all of them. Understandably, many of the questions focused on the safety of Ukrainian students who live and work in the United States under this program. (The Embassy will hold a web chat on SWT on March 15.)
After this lively session, it was time to travel back to Kyiv. It was a busy two days, but I definitely would like to get back to Odessa sometime soon. Perhaps next time I’ll be able to go when it will be a little warmer.