SIU Crews Honored at AOTOS Event (11/14)


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The United Seamen’s Service has issued the following news release about this year’s Admiral of the Ocean Sea dinner. The vessels earning recognition – USNS Mercy, Horizon Reliance, Green Cove, Ocean Titan, and Baldomero Lopez – all carry SIU crews.




NEW YORK, NY (Nov. 12, 2012) -- One medical outreach and five acts of valor in the maritime industry were recognized at the 43rd annual United Seamen's Service Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) dinner.


The AOTOS award was presented to Niels M. Johnsen, Chairman and CEO of International Shipholding Corporation; Captain Robert E. Johnston, Senior Vice President of Overseas Shipholding Group; and the Honorable Mary L. Landrieu, U.S. Senator from Louisiana.


More than 700 guests attended the dinner and dance at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers in New York City. Since 1969, the AOTOS is considered the industry's most prestigious award and seafarer valor awards are a highlight of the event.


The special AOTOS recognition plaque was presented to the crew of the USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), a hospital ship, which served under civil service master Capt. Jonathan Olmsted. Military Sealift Command’s Rear Admiral Mark H. Buzby, USN was on hand to present the plaque to the USNS Mercy.


For nearly five months, 70 civil service mariners and approximately 1,100 Navy, Army and non-governmental personnel brought medical care, technical assistance and hope to the peoples of Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia during Pacific Partnership 2012.


The civil service mariners were responsible for the 894-foot hospital ship, providing day-to-day operations, navigation and engineering, in addition to operating the small boats used to transport patients and ship’s personnel between ship and shore.


As lead vessel for the largest humanitarian aid, civic assistance and medical treatment project in the Pacific Rim area of operations, Mercy steamed more than 20,000 miles, allowing Navy doctors and nurses from the medical treatment facility aboard to work with medical professionals from numerous governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and the host nations to provide medical care to nearly 50,000 people during the mission.


The officers and crews of four different vessels that proved heroisms in their rescue attempts were presented the AOTOS Mariner’s Plaque. The U.S. Coast Guard received the AOTOS Mariner's Rosette and the Honorable Helen Delich Bentley and the Honorable David Matsuda presented the AOTOS Mariner’s Plaques and Rosettes. The first was given to the officers and crew of the M/V Horizon Reliance, who rescued three people, including a nine-year-old boy, whose 38-foot sailing vessel sank in the South Pacific in stormy seas some 400 miles from Hawaii.


In the darkness of night, they drifted out of control with high seas and sustained winds reaching 30 knots. M/V Horizon Reliance diverted course and plotted a rescue procedure including pre-positioning life rings, line throwing apparatus and arranging pilot combination ladders. Captain James Kelleher determined the child was to be first evacuated. Stores cranes were rigged as secondary rescue apparatus. 


Waves surged to 30-feet swells and pushed the sailing vessel, fouling efforts to shoot lines into place tossing all three into the South Pacific.  The sailing vessel flipped and went under the bulbous bow and sank. A weather front increased winds to 50 knots and dropped visibility as rain was in horizontal sheets. The crew was pitching lighted life rings in the water. A merchant mariner was assigned to each in the sea and kept eyes on them for hours. Mitch James had injuries from falling into the sea the day before and he was retrieved in an hour, while the two others, Brad James and his son, West, drifted away. The 893-foot ship spent 2½ hours executing intricate maneuvers to get close enough to pluck father and son from the treacherous waters.


The three were given emergency care, food, dry clothing and carried to Honolulu, hosted by Horizon Lines until they could return to Canada. None was seriously injured, thanks to the heroic efforts of the entire M/V Horizon Reliance crew.


The next plaque was given to the M/V Green Cove, where the officers and crew rescued a fishing vessel that was lost in sea, 200 miles off the Columbia coast, for nine days with no food and water.


The fishing vessel capsized and the four crew members in the disabled boat were able to communicate with a U.S. Navy airborne warning and control system AWACS aircraft.  The AWACS set into motion a rescue operation involving the M/V Green Cove, a U.S. flagged roll-on roll-off vessel contracted to Military Sealift Command.


The AWACS asked the M/V Green Cove to approach the scene, providing location information. As Green Cove maneuvered, the AWACS stayed on station until the rescue was accomplished and all were safely aboard. Bosun Brad Brunette and ABs Edward Ayers and Dhindo Faulve lashed a pair of cargo nets together and lowered them alongside the pilot ladder. The four crewmen aboard were too weak to climb the ladders, so the M/V Green Cove crew regrouped and rigged a gangway to get them aboard. Once rehydrated and fed, the four were transferred later in the evening to a Brazilian naval vessel.


The third plaque awarded the crew of the MV Ocean Titan, who were called into action after a collision involving two vessels in high seas and strong winds in the Bay of Biscay. The crew and officers were able to pull the survivors from the life rafts into safety.


In near gale force winds, a dark night and 12~14’ seas the tanker M/V Afrodite collided with the M/V Florece 250 miles southwest of Land’s End sending the bulk carrier to the ocean floor within an hour. The M/V Ocean Titan arrived on the scene. Captain Christopher Hill assembled his crew for rescue action. Despite a full load of cargo and a shoreside crane with a high center of gravity, Hill maneuvered his vessel close to the survivors.


Using engines and rudder to block the swell and minimize roll, he was able to move to the raft just long enough to drag survivors on the decks by throwing a heaving line to the raft.


The fourth award involved the USNS 1st LT Baldomero Lopez, where a contractor became unexpectedly ill and crew members were faced with an emergency situation as the man became unresponsive. With quick thinking, the crew was able to save a life by administering CPR and the defibrillator. The crew was recognized for their courageous act as the fourth plaque read:


The USNS 1st LT Baldomero Lopez of MSC’s Prepositioning Ship Squadron Two was in the Diego Garcia lagoon in the central Indian Ocean when a Honeywell contractor became gravely ill with a heart-related medical problem. When the contractor collapsed in the ship’s licensed galley, Chief Mate Dave Schumacker alerted Captain Peter Clark, the Lopez’s civilian master, that the man was in obvious distress. Clark directed Third Mate Jacob George to assist in establishing an airway, while he began administering CPR procedures and then the Automated External Defibrillator.


Crew members and moved him to the launch area, where Bosun Gerald Kelly lowered him to a waiting launch vessel’s stern for transport to the local Diego Garcia Naval Support Facility. Lopez’s crew members acted quickly, efficiently and calmly, while responding to time-critical medical emergency demonstrating dedication to duty and compassion for a fellow mariner, in keeping with the highest traditions of the MSC and the Navy.


Mr. Matsuda presented the AOTOS Mariner’s Rosette to Phillip Ornot of the U.S. Coast Guard. Ornot swam through treacherous waters to help four migrant workers who were left stranded in the waters in Puerto Rico following a smuggling interdiction.


USS has presented nearly 200 Honored Seafarer Awards in the past 43 years. Proceeds from the AOTOS event benefit USS community services abroad for the U.S. Merchant Marine, seafarers of all nations, and U.S. government and military overseas. USS, a non-profit agency established in 1942, operates centers in seven foreign ports in Europe, Asia, and Africa and in the Indian Ocean, and also provides seagoing libraries to American vessels through its affiliate, the American Merchant Marine Library Association.




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