Several Seafarers-crewed vessels were recognized at the 2015 Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) awards gathering, which took place Nov. 13 in New York City.
Additionally, the United Seamen’s Service (USS) honored Anthony Chiarello, president and CEO of TOTE Inc.; Matthew J. Cox, president and CEO of Matson; and James C. McKenna, president and CEO of the Pacific Maritime Association with the AOTOS award. Chiarello dedicated his award to the crew of the El Faro, which sank in Hurricane Joaquin near the Bahamas on Oct. 1, claiming the lives of all 33 on board, including 17 SIU members.
The AOTOS gathering included the reading of the names of those who perished on the El Faro. SIU President Michael Sacco read the names of the Seafarers, and Paul Doell, president of the American Maritime Officers, read the names of the vessel’s officers. Finally, Chiarello recited the names of the five Polish nationals who were on the ship. All 700-plus in the audience then sang, “God Bless America.”
“This is a year wherein I am personally unable to accept such a singular honor,” Chiarello said. “Each of us here at this maritime industry gathering will appreciate the gravity and the impact that the loss of the El Faro and her officers and her crew had on TOTE Maritime.”
He added, “Within the firm, each of us has shared the anguish and the grief thrust so unmercifully upon the families and friends of those who were lost. Our hearts are torn bearing witness to their suffering.”
He concluded, “This year, with the leave of the United Seamen’s Service and by the leave of those of you here with me this evening, I’d ask that we put aside any honor meant expressly for myself, and that we honor instead the valiant men and women that comprised the officers and the crew of the El Faro. This evening, they deserve the AOTOS award far more than I do.”
All three recipients shared a history of early family ties to the maritime industry. McKenna spoke of his father-in-law introducing him to the waterfront nearly 45 years ago. Cox, who heads a 133-year-old, Seafarers- contracted ocean carrier, mentioned a seafaring grandfather. Chiarello is a fourth generation family member involved in the maritime industry.
Cox declared he was accepting the award “on behalf of Matson customers, unions and employees, and U.S.-flag ships, proudly crewed by U.S.-citizen mariners, who I consider to be the best in the world.”
Receiving Honored Seafarer awards for separate rescues were the SIU-crewed USNS Impeccable (operated by Crowley) and the USNS William McLean (part of the union’s Government Services Division). Two other SIU-crewed ships – the Cape Rise and Cape Wrath – also earned Honored Seafarer awards for their respective roles in assisting medical personnel in the fight against Ebola in West Africa. That mission, Operation United Assistance, included deployments of the Ready Reserve Force ships to U.S. installations in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The Cape Rise is operated by Keystone, while the Cape Wrath is operated by Crowley.
The awards were presented by Rear Adm. T.K. Shannon, commander of the U.S. Military Sealift Command, and Ed Morgan, president of USS.
In the keynote address, Gen. Darren McDew, commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, stressed the importance of the U.S. Merchant Marine to America’s national and economic security. He stated his support for the U.S. Maritime Security Program and told the mariners, vessel operators and union officials in the audience, “You represent our ability to achieve our national objectives. I just want you to know how much I value you, who you are and what you do.”
Proceeds from the AOTOS event are used for USS community services abroad for the U.S. Merchant Marine, seafarers of all nations, and U.S. government and military personnel overseas.
The USS, a non-profit agency established in 1942, operates centers in six 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.