A new floating classroom from Texas A&M has sailed into Port Arthur to give its students some real world maritime experience.

Checking the routes and steering the ship are just some of the duties students learn aboard this summer school on the sea, the General Rudder.

"I can have a class at one O'clock and then at 3:30 I'll be up in this bridge applying what I learned in the classroom," said cadet Juan Pablo Negrete.

Cadets sailed to Port Arthur from Galveston on the general rudder as part of the Texas maritime academy one of only six maritime academies in the country and the only one in the south.

Cadets spend three summers at sea to complete their mariner training requirements, on ships like the General Rudder, preparing them for jobs in the offshore oil industry and other positions worldwide.

"95 percent of the worlds goods are shipped at sea," said Negrete.

Sophomore cadet Juan Pablo Negrete is in his first summer at sea and hopes to one day become a captain because to him the shipping industry is the backbone of the economy.

"At Wal-Mart you would see a set of towels on the shelf and more than likely at one point those towels were on a ship being shipped across the world to make it to that Wal-Mart," he said.

The academy's Captain Jack Smith says after graduation cadets can command $80,000 entry-level salaries.

"There's a lot of jobs available for these kids," said Captain Smith. We work hard to train them well so they do a good job when they get out of school."

As cadets sail the Gulf they are learning and honing their skills while gaining life skills that, they say, no other classroom can give them.

In this seven-week long course the academy trains a total of 50 cadets during each of the two summer training cruises around the Gulf of Mexico.

The General Rudder was named and dedicated for WWII hero and former Texas A&M president and Texas statesman, general James Earl Rudder, on June 6th.