NMP was established on May 1, 1978 by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1369 to meet the need for a national maritime upgrading institution that would update and upgrade the capability and qualifications of the graduates of maritime schools in order for them to keep abreast with the continuing changes, innovations and development in the maritime industry, and supplement the skills and competence of deck and engine licensed officers and ratings through job-oriented training programs aimed to increase their acceptability for employment in the domestic and international shipping.

Initial operations of NMP were handled by employees from the now defunct National Seamen Board. The course offerings consisted of Basic Messman Course and the supervision of radar-related courses in Manila-based maritime schools.

In 1980, the Polytechnic acquired a 17-hectare lot in Cabalawan, Tacloban City which has paved the way for its expanded operations.

Five years (1985) later, the Governments of the Philippines and Japan, represented by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), signed a Technical Cooperation Program which resulted in a two phased NMP Modernization and Expansion Program.

Huge donations from JICA consisted of the Administration, Training and Generator buildings, state-of-the-art training equipment and simulators, spare parts, technical books and references.  Alongside these donations was the dispatch of technical experts for technology transfer and for the technical training of their Filipino counterparts in Japan. The NMP then started its full-swing operation in 1986 offering various upgrading and specialized courses for deck and engine officers and the basic safety courses for both officers and ratings.

Executive Order No. 126 signed in 1987 has attached NMP to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) converting NMP from state college to a DOLE agency under the manpower development cluster.  The NMP has even more build up its course offerings in line with DOLE’s mandate of human capital development.

NMP has also been known as pioneer in developing training courses that address psycho-social needs of seafaring personnel. These psycho-social courses were offshoot of research findings from NMP conducted maritime research and studies which respondents mostly come from the industry. Some of these courses are the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in the Maritime Sector (PADAMS), STD,/HIV/AIDS Prevention in the Maritime Sector (SHAPIMS), Computer Course for Seafarers, Simulator Course for Senior Cadets, and  the Safety at Sea Course for Fishermen, Motorboat Operators and Handlers.

The 1995 amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers 1978 Convention have significantly changed the way seafarers are trained and certificated for employment onboard seagoing ships. The NMP has responded by not only enhancing its training curriculum in accordance with the 1995 amendments, it also embarked on the establishment of a quality standard system in compliance with Regulation I/8 of the STCW Convention and the provisions of Section A-I/8 of the STCW Code.

On April 25, 2000, the NMP Quality Management System (QMS) was certified compliant to the ISO 9000:1994 Standards by the Anglo Japanese American (AJA) Registrars Inc., a London-based certifying body. Since then, the NMP has continuously worked on obtaining ISO certifications in accordance with the latest standards to ensure the delivery of quality training and assessment services.

With the signing of Republic Act No. 10635 in 2013, "An Act establishing the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) as the Single Maritime Administration responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, as amended, and International Agreements or Covenants related thereto.", the NMP, as a training provider to Filipino seafarers, need to adhere to MARINA STCW issuances.  Thus, NMP training courses were reviewed and revised in accordance to regulations set forth by MARINA.