Maritime Day Message: Strong Merchant Marine a Must!


July 2015


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To view photos from this year's Maritime Day ceremony, click here.

The basic message conveyed by all of the speakers during the National Maritime Day ceremony on May 21 in Washington, D.C., was perhaps best summed up by Gen. Paul Selva, commander, U.S. Transportation Command: “Let me be quite simple in saying that the relationship that ties our ocean shipping industry and the mariners who sail those ships in defense of this nation is unbreakable.”


The ceremony – conducted at the Department of Transportation building and featuring a typically strong turnout by the SIU and its affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education (PHC) – was a shining example of those ties that bind the maritime industry together. Hosted by master of ceremonies Joel Szabat, executive director of the Maritime Administration, speakers from all components of the industry offered their remarks, including Selva; Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen; U.S. Military Sealift Command (MSC) Commander Rear Adm. Thomas K. Shannon; President and CEO of TOTE Anthony Chiarello; American Association of Port Authorities Chairwoman Kristin Decas; and Deputy Director for Operations at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Rear Adm. Anita Lopez. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx joined the event during the reception immediately afterward.


With a supporting cast that included the U.S. Navy Band Brass Quartet and 23 trainees from the PHC, the speakers each brought a different perspective on the vital role played by America’s civilian mariners. Also attending the event were SIU officials including President Michael Sacco, Executive Vice President Augie Tellez, Vice President Contracts George Tricker, Legislative Director Brian Schoeneman and Piney Point Port Agent Pat Vandegrift. Apprentices Reisa Martinez Serrano and Zachary Ballard carried the memorial wreath, while Apprentice Anthony Martone sounded the traditional eight bells.


Selva said the military has needs that can only be filled by seafarers. “I need 11,000 merchant mariners, ready on any given day, to sail 60 ships on 30-day cycles. I need 60 ships in the Maritime Security Program to make that work,” he said, stressing that the U.S. depends on merchant mariners to go to war effectively.


He continued, explaining his “60-60-60” plan for mobilizing troops: “If we’re going to win a war against a concerted enemy, we have to sail 60 ships in the first 30 days of that fight. Those ships will come from the Ready Reserve Fleet, which is co-managed by Military Sealift Command and the U.S. Maritime Administration. Within the next 30 days we must sail another 60 ships, which will come from the Maritime Security Program – commercially viable, militarily useful ships that ply over-ocean trade every single day. And in the following 30 days we will have to sail those first 60 ships yet again, to deploy our combat forces to whatever fight might present us.”


He added, “We are forever indebted to the sailors of our United States Merchant Marine. Those mariners who every day go to sea and not only bring economic prosperity, but build the foundation for defending this nation.”


Touching on the months and years ahead, Selva stated, “My commitment here today is to continue to be a force for the strength of our U.S. Merchant Marine – for the courage of those young men and women who go to sea every day to bring prosperity and security to our nation. May they always be safe on the seas, and may we always defend them and their commitment to our nation.”


Jaenichen touched on the historic service of mariners and the ongoing need for a strong maritime industry.


“Since our nation’s inception, the U.S. Merchant Mariners have helped to ensure our dominion over these waters. Thanks to the service and the ingenuity and the bravery of the U.S. Merchant Mariners, oceans, rivers and lakes have never held our nation back,” he said. “Maritime capabilities have fueled the economy of the United States of America, and our growth as a nation.”


He continued, “President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called our merchant mariners the nation’s fourth arm of defense, and he did so for good reason. All throughout our history, merchant mariners – and I will point out that they are our nation’s first all-volunteer force – have bravely served the cause of liberty, providing vital sealift capability to globally project and sustain our armed forces, supporting our nation in times of war and in crisis, often sailing into harm’s way to deliver the required ammunition, supplies and equipment that have ensured victory. In peace, they have advanced our humanitarian missions worldwide. Today, our national security is firmly and directly tied to the water. And so, too, is our economy.”


He later spoke about two new programs that the Maritime Administration is rolling out. The first, U.S. Ships, would call attention to shippers who deliver more than the mandated amount of cargo for U.S.-flag vessels. The second is a program designed to accept suggestions for proper locations to display the U.S. Merchant Marine flag, such as at a school or memorial. Once the site has been approved, MARAD will ensure that a Merchant Marine flag is sent to and displayed at that location.


Chiarello gave the first keynote speech, discussing the eco-friendly initiatives that SIU-contracted TOTE has taken in recent years and touting their new LNG-powered containership as an historic achievement not just for his company, but for the transportation industry as a whole. He then offered remarks about the importance of maritime unions.


“I’d like to thank the unions: the SIU and AMO, who are represented here today,” he stated. “Mike and Augie and (AMO President) Paul (Doell) and others, we so appreciate the support that you’ve given us and helped us work through the various challenges that we’ve had with this new technology. And the SIU went even beyond that: Mike Sacco actually allowed us to borrow his wife (Sophie) for a couple of days, to both christen and be the godmother for the first vessel that was launched just a few weeks ago.”


He also presented a slide show that chronicled the construction of TOTE’s latest shipbuilding project, the Isla Bella, and highlighted the technological triumphs that made the LNG dream a reality.


While this ceremony partly was a celebration of the bright plans for the future of the maritime industry, it also provided a solemn remembrance of the past.


In between speakers, a ceremony took place awarding three Merchant Marine Medals for Outstanding Achievement to Raymond Ebeling, John Reinhart, and the SIU’s own Bill Eglinton, who passed away late last year. The medals are awarded each year to individuals who have made significant contributions to the U.S. Merchant Marine.


Ebeling, founder and former chairman of SIU-contracted American Rollon/ Roll-off Carrier and former chairman of the National Defense Transportation Association; and Reinhart, a former CEO of SIU-contracted Maersk Line, Limited and current Executive Director for the Virginia Port Authority, both accepted their medals on stage, while Eglinton’s widow, Sharon, accepted his posthumous honor. Eglington worked at the PHC for 34 years and served the industry in many international capacities even after retiring.


Mrs. Eglinton said a few words on behalf of her husband. “This is a bittersweet moment for my family and me. Bill would be elated to see this crowd,” she said. “My husband was a hardworking man, connected to many organizations. He was never a man to expect gratitude in return. He was an outstanding achiever, and dedicated his life to the safety of mariners.”


After the award ceremony, Decas spoke about the vital importance of ports to the shipping industry. She also talked about the historical and current importance of seafarers to this nation.


“The merchant marine has been a pillar of this country’s foundation, security and continued prosperity,” she said. “Our rich maritime heritage dates back to when the Mayflower first arrived on our shores, and is linked to the sea, our waterways and harbors.”


Lopez offered remarks on the vital work that NOAA does for navigating our waterways and ports, as she gave the history of seafaring as it pertains to mapping and research. She praised merchant mariners, calling them “the backbone of our fleet.”


Finally, Shannon discussed some of the important tasks that SIU Government Services Division mariners, among others, are currently undertaking around the world. On the topic of maritime programs, he said, “Our Jones Act, Maritime Security Program and the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement are lynchpins to maintain our United Statesflag fleet and our trained mariners. We must have these.”


He concluded, “I can think of no better way to honor our mariners – past and present – than to continue to ensure that we maintain the United States-flag sealift capability with trained American mariners. It is incumbent upon everyone – Congress, military, the government, labor unions, United States industry and you – to carry that message to anyone who will listen.”


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