Seafarers, Longshore Labor, Ocean Carriers and MARAD All Honored At Virtual 2020 Admiral of the Ocean Sea Award
USS Salutes “Essential” Workforce At 51st Annual Event
Washington DC, December 16, 2020—The efforts of the entire American maritime community service to the nation, especially in light of the global pandemic and its impact on world trade, was highlighted at the United Seamen’s Service 51st annual Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) Award, a virtual presentation held earlier this month. The event, held on December 9, paid special recognition of the four pillars of the American shipping community– the Maritime Administration; merchant mariners; U.S.-flag shipping companies and longshoremen.
General Kenneth Wykle, US Army, retired, who served as master of ceremonies of the awards, said: “To keep the international supply chain and our economy operating, the hard-working maritime community labored every day to move millions of tons of cargo in and out of America’s ports.” He added, “ They delivered the essential goods necessary for international commerce, the economy, and supported our national defense.”
The complete 40-minute program is available for view on https://youtu.be/U0GDXzG2GJo or on YouTube at AOTOS 2020.
The Honorable Elaine Chao, US Secretary of Transportation, accepted the silver statue of Christopher Columbus, which will be permanently housed at MarAd headquarters. She said: “The men and women of the US merchant marine pull together to keep our country on course and does so much to protect our country in wartime and in peace.” Ms. Chao, who received an AOTOS in 2019, has an unmatched history of public service in the shipping industry.
She noted that United Seamen’s Service is recognized “for awarding this prestigious honor to the merchant marine and MarAd, who have worked so hard to meet the challenge of this health crisis.”
The Honorable Mark Buzby, who is the present Maritime Administrator, spoke of the role of the seafarer. “Some jobs cannot be done smoothly, but the seafarers worked long and tirelessly helping the industry cope during this crisis.” “We needed every one of them to get the job done…and they got it done.” He also lauded the role of USS in “being there for our seafarers.”
Michael J. Sacco, President of the Seafarers International Union, said: “I’m proud to recognize American mariners who go to work on the deep seas, along our coasts, on our rivers and waterways, and on the Great Lakes. Your jobs aren’t easy during normal times, and they’ve definitely become much more challenging because of COVID-19. But,” he said, “ you have answered the call, every time, and in every way. You have lived up to your role as federally designated essential workers’.”
Mr. Sacco added: “You’ve kept commercial cargo moving and you’ve continued supporting our troops. You adapted to new routines that would’ve been unimaginable a year ago. Quarantines, COVID testing, restriction to ship, complexities with crew changes, extended rotations that meant longer time away from your families.”
In closing, Mr. Sacco urged all merchant mariners to “continue to take this pandemic seriously, just like you’ve done all along. We can see the lighthouse ahead of the safe harbor, but this isn’t the time to drop our guard…your country depends on you.”
William Adams, president of the International Longshore & Warehousemen’s Union, representing West coast dockworkers, and the East Coast counterpart, the International Longshoreman’s Association, noted the “debt of gratitude owed to the American dockworkers who put their lives on the line daily as the heart and soul of the shipping industry. They exhibit grace under pressure,” he said.
Mr. Adams noted that in addition to their pivotal role in moving millions of tons across the waterfront, “Longshoremen have answered the call working through the pandemic, despite the personal risk, even helping stranded passengers from cruise ships that were not allowed into port.”
Thomas B. Crowley Jr., chairman and CEO of Crowley Maritime Corp., founded by his grandfather in 1892, said: “Our labor partners continue to show the American work ethic in the very best light. On shore, our administrative teams have also done a remarkable job adapting to the new normal. If you had asked me a year ago if 95 percent of our personnel could work effectively from home, I would have questioned the probability of success. But COVID forced our hand, and by leveraging our people’s ingenuity, as well as our investments in technology, we have been remarkably successful in adapting our work processes,” he said, adding,” “Essential supply chains remain robust and that is good news for everyone.”
Mr. Crowley said: “COVID awareness and prevention have become added layers of defense in our safety programs. The availability of PPE and timely testing and test result availability continues to be a challenge, although it is better than it was at the start of the pandemic. Our nation’s mariners play a vital role for the economy and the national defense. They live and work in close quarters onboard vessels and their protection must be our first priority…Stakeholder collaboration is essential. After too many challenging months, when it comes to mariner safety, we should all recognize that we’re better together than any one of us could ever be working alone.”
William Woodhour, president of Maersk Line, Limited, also speaking for the carrier sector, discussed the challenges of intentional operations. “Each country we serve has a mandate of two weeks of quarantine for our crews, which has added substantially to each voyage” and made personnel turnarounds difficult. He added that “seafarers are doing more than a job when working through this crisis.”
US Army General Stephen R. Lyons, Commander of the US Transportation Command, who also spoke at the virtual ceremony, said: “When our nation goes to war, so does the maritime industry. Our success at TRANSCOM is inextricably tied to a high performance maritime industry.”
He said that it took resilience, determination and teamwork on behalf of the entire shipping industry to work through the COVID-19 crisis, which is not over. “It was truly a example of our motto, ’Together we will deliver,’” said General Lyons.
Also joining the program was Rear Admiral Michael Wettlaufer, Commander, Military Sealift Command, who note the roles of merchant mariners who manned the hospital ships USNS Mercy and Comfort, which were sent to New York and Los Angeles to handle the Covid-19 patient overflow. “We were able to respond quickly because of their commitment.” He added that the seagoing civilian navy “overcomes obstacles before they limit us.”
Admiral Wettlaufer, alluding to the Navy’ shipbuilding program, noted that: ”We have fleet oilers and support ships ordered that will provide for ne jobs at sea and on shore.” He said that the program also has $3 billion in small business initiatives.
The AOTOS Award has been given every year since 1970 to individuals and organizations that have made valued contributions to American shipping and seafarers. More than 80 AOTOS Awards have been given to labor, management and government leaders. It is considered the U.S. shipping industry’s highest honor. A national poll and a committee of industry leaders select those so honored.
Information on the virtual presentation is available from USS Executive Director Roger Korner, Tel: (201) 369-1100, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Barbara Yeninas, Tel: (973) 650-0105, Email: Barbara@bsya.com.
United Seamen’s Service Website: unitedseamensservice.org