National Maritime Day Events in D.C. Honor Dedication, Value of Mariners

June 2010

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America paid tribute to the dedication and ongoing reliability of its merchant mariners during National Maritime Day observances in Washington, D.C., on May 18. The day-long commemoration opened at the Department of Transportation headquarters building with an event sponsored by the Maritime Administration, and ended at the Washington Navy Yard with the traditional wreath-laying ceremony sponsored by the Military Sealift Command.

The annual ceremonies, including a luncheon sponsored by the Propeller Club, featured military, congressional, administration and maritime leaders who praised the contributions of the U.S. Merchant Marine.

Among those representing the SIU were President Michael Sacco, Executive Vice President Augie Tellez, Vice President Contracts George Tricker and Assistant Vice President Ambrose Cucinotta. A group of unlicensed apprentices from the union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education also attended, as did Bosun Gerald Butch from the USNS Comfort.

The morning program at DOT featured an invocation by SIU member Fr. Sinclair Oubre, president of the Apostleship of the Sea of the United States, and remarks by U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), who stressed the importance of the Jones Act to the nation’s economy.

“It’s a great [law] that’s vital to our nation, American business and American maritime,” the congressman stated.

Acting Maritime Administrator David Matsuda added, “Seafarers have long been the backbone of our economy and defense and we owe them a great deal of gratitude for their sacrifices.”

The same event also featured the ceremonial ringing of eight bells, done in remembrance of the service of mariners. Paul Hall Center Apprentice Matthew Clements rang the bell.

Later in the day at the Washington Navy Yard, Navy Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Admiral John C. Harvey Jr. praised generations of U.S. Merchant Mariners for their contributions to national defense.

“Mariners’ service and sacrifice, their pride and professionalism are the firm foundation of our global military operations,” he said. Harvey also hailed mariners’ roles in providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief, most recently to Haiti after its devastating January earthquake.

MSC Commander Rear Admiral Mark H. Buzby noted during the ceremony, “We at MSC are proud of our civilian mariners, so it is fitting that today is set aside to acknowledge the great debt of gratitude we owe to the dedicated men and women of the U.S. Merchant Marine.”

Buzby also recognized by name four civil service mariners from the hospital ship USNS Comfort – Bosun Butch, Chief Mate David Lieberman, Third Mate Joseph Kranz and Second Assistant Engineer Peter Barry. The four were presented with Merchant Marine Outstanding Achievement Medals by MarAd earlier in the day.

On a day full of maritime tradition, three wreaths were placed at the Navy Yard in honor of mariners who made the ultimate sacrifice – one by Butch on behalf of the USNS Comfort, one on behalf of MSC and the third by Clements on behalf of the school. The wreaths were later moved to a place of honor at the Navy Memorial, also in the nation’s capital.

In an event related to National Maritime Day, the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., hosted a seminar titled, “Environmental Intelligence in Shipping and the Seafarer.” Tricker and Oubre both were among the panelists.

The actual date of National Maritime Day is May 22 annually. It was established by Congress in 1933 to honor the contributions and sacrifices of U.S. Merchant Mariners in defense of the United States.

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Presidential Proclamation
National Maritime Day 2010

Even before our Nation declared independence, our forebears recognized the importance of merchant ships and seafarers to our economic and national security. Since 1775, America’s maritime fleet has risen to the challenges before them and worked to meet our country’s needs in times of peace and war alike. On National Maritime Day, we recognize the men and women of the United States Merchant Marine for their contributions to America’s leadership in the global marketplace, and to our security.

Civilian mariners and their ships have played an important role in equipping our military forces at sea in national conflicts. During World War II, they executed the largest sealift the world had ever known, and thousands gave their lives to help convoys with desperately needed supplies reach our troops. Their service to our Nation continues today. Merchant mariners support military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as humanitarian missions, including the delivery of supplies to Haiti following this year’s devastating earthquake.

The United States Merchant Marine also shepherds the safe passage of American goods. They carry our exports to customers around the world and support the flow of domestic commerce on our maritime highways.
They help strengthen our Nation’s economy; bolster job creating businesses; and, along with the transportation industry, employ Americans on ships and tugs, and in ports and shipyards. Today, we pay tribute to the United States Merchant Marine, and we honor all those whose tireless work is laying a foundation for growth, prosperity, and leadership in the 21st century.

The Congress, by a joint resolution approved May 20, 1933, has designated May 22 of each year as “National Maritime Day,” and has authorized and requested the President to issue annually a proclamation calling for its appropriate observance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 22, 2010, as National Maritime Day. I call upon the people of the United States to mark this observance with appropriate activities, and I encourage all ships sailing under the American flag to dress ship on that day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.