The Delgado Community College Maritime and Industrial Training Center, which moved into a new $6.5 million facility in New Orleans in 2016, is seeking designation as a Domestic Maritime Center of Excellence.

Officials said the designation would help the Delgado center admit more students, train faculty, expand facilities and create new maritime career avenues from associate degree to baccalaureate degree programs, and awarding credit for prior learning experience, including military service.

Recently approved legislation authorizes federal designation of community and technical college "centers of excellence" to help provide technical education and training programs to address a shortage of workers in the nation's maritime workforce and support continuous training in the industry.

"Louisiana's maritime industry is vital to the American economy. Training the next generation of maritime workers in Louisiana benefits Louisiana, the United States and indeed, the world," said Sen. Bill Cassidy. Cassidy and Sen. John Kennedy co-authored the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act introduced by Congressmen Gene Green, D-Texas, and Rob Wittman, R-Virginia. It is part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act recently signed by President Donald Trump.

The U.S. Coast Guard-approved Delgado facility provides education and workforce training in fields including maritime operations, industrial firefighting and safety, homeland security and leadership skills. Over the past 30 years, the center has provided more than 100,000 certifications to licensed mariners employed in maritime and oil and gas-related professions.

"This is a great opportunity for Delgado to build on its rich history of being one of the best maritime training facilities in the nation," said Tim Hardy, board chairman of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

"Louisiana's Community and Technical College System has earned a stellar reputation for workforce training and development in the maritime industry and becoming a center for excellence would provide tremendous opportunities for our state, our people and this industry as a whole," said Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, noted Louisiana's maritime leadership as home to five of the nation's top 15 ports, moving more than 500 million annual tons of cargo, and the state's gateway position to the Mississippi River system.