For photos from the event, visit the Seafarers LOG Facebook page.
While National Maritime Day was observed on May 22 with ceremonies across the country, only one featured an inspired speech from a current U.S. Cabinet Secretary.
At the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) headquarters in Washington, D.C, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao headlined the day’s ceremony with her keynote address, speaking to an assembled crowd of over 200 maritime industry leaders. Chao was in good company, with the ceremony’s other speeches given by (in order) Rear Adm. Mark “Buzz” Buzby (Ret.), administrator of the Maritime Administration (MARAD); Gen. Darren McDew, commander of the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM); and Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Representing the SIU at the event were Executive Vice President Augie Tellez, Vice President Contracts George Tricker, Legislative Director Brian Schoeneman, Piney Point Port Agent Pat Vandegrift and 17 apprentices from the union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education. Apprentice Carlos Gutierrez served as the ceremony’s wreath tender, while fellow trainee Joshua Bonita rang eight bells, the traditional “end of watch” signal.
Buzby opened the ceremony with words of thanks and a reminder of the importance of maritime: “We’re here today to take a few minutes out of our very, very busy lives to recognize the many dedicated seafaring men and women of the U.S. Merchant Marine, who have fueled the economy of the United States and helped defend her for more than 240 years. Longer, in fact, then we have had armed forces.”
He continued, “We owe a collective great debt of gratitude to our mariners. By delivering supplies and equipment to our military forces overseas, and commercial cargoes here at home and to other nations, they have helped establish the American way of life…. By serving our nation in peace and war, and by providing humanitarian assistance around the globe, they have carried on the unwritten diplomatic mission of the United States: to keep our country strong, and to make the world a better place.”
Chao began by thanking those in attendance, then made special mention of the SIU leadership, saying, “I’m especially pleased to have a great leader within the maritime industry, and that’s Mr. Augie Tellez, the executive vice president of the Seafarers International Union. President Mike Sacco and Executive Vice President Augie Tellez leads one of the strongest unions in the country, and they are one of our country’s strongest advocates of the maritime industry and for mariners, as well. So, Augie, we want to thank you for everything that you do to protect our mariners.”
She continued, “The theme for this Maritime Day is, ‘Voices – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’. And what an appropriate focus during this time of change and opportunity. The maritime community has always had a strong and constant voice, as steady as the roar of the sea. Its values are timeless, the product of centuries of hardearned experience: Stand by your shipmates, do your duty, train hard and stay the course. Those voices continue to guide us with the wisdom that only experience can bring.
“As you know, Maritime Day commemorates the American innovation that changed the seagoing world: the first successful crossing of the Atlantic by a steam-powered ship, the Savannah,” she noted. “It was revolutionary, and led to even more innovation and change. Iron and then steel replaced wood, propellers replaced sails, diesel replaced steam … and now we have new LNG-powered containerships that are now putting to sea as part of our innovative U.S.-flag fleet.”
Chao outlined additional improvements made within the shipping industry over the years, before saying, “However, one thing remains constant: the absolutely critical role that the U.S.-flag Merchant Marine vessels play in our economic and national security. As our flag says, ‘In Peace and War’.”
The secretary then spoke about the Maritime Security Program, which she called “a vital part of that readiness. MARAD is currently conducting a study called MSP 4.0, to determine what direction the program needs to move in the future. I tell people the Maritime Security Program is a great example of the public-private partnerships that are often talked about in this administration’s infrastructure proposal. In this case, the Navy needs to move civilian and non-military goods around the world to vital locations. The military sealift program links it with commercial operators, who have developed knowledge and networks of ports, pilots, stevedores, port infrastructure…. For the Navy to try to replicate this experience and these connections, it would cost so much more than the prices that the Maritime Security Program delivers.
“The Transportation Institute estimates that the MSP has saved the U.S. Navy $60 billion in transportation costs,” Chao continued. “So, to our MSP carriers who are represented here today, thank you for your patriotism and willingness to dedicate your ships and mariners to the cause. And of course, we thank the mariners as well. We thank you for performing this vital service so efficiently and effectively for the Navy, for our country and for the taxpayers, as well. We also appreciate the hard work done by our operating companies, and the mariners who efficiently and professionally maintain our U.S. Government Surge Sealift ships in the Ready Reserve Force.”
After multiple awards were presented to World War II veteran mariner William Tiernan, who sailed with both the NMU and the SIU, McAleenan spoke on how the goals of CBP align with the intentions of the U.S.-flag shipping industry. He said, “What I’ve learned is that every person who’s taken the title of mariner has in common a commitment to country and a willingness to serve in a time of need. These are traits that I deeply respect, and I recognize daily in the men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. So, while our functions may be distinct, our underlying purposes and even our goals are directly complementary. In fact, I believe the goals of the U.S. Merchant Marine and CBP actually align very well: facilitation of trade and the protection of the country.
“So, when Admiral Buzby extended the invitation for me to speak about CBP’s efforts to promote national security and economic prosperity, in partnership with the U.S. maritime community, I was very grateful for the opportunity, but also struck by the fact that you also recognize the commonality between our communities and the value of our relationship,” he added.
He then spoke of his relationship with Buzby, saying, “I got to know Buzz during our shared responses to the trio of hurricanes we faced – Harvey, Irma and Maria – last fall. I immediately recognized his professional competence but was also struck by the integrity with which he represented MARAD and, by extension, the U.S. maritime community. Fact-based operational reality is what you need in a crisis, and it was a privilege to partner with him. During a storm and its aftermath, there can be a tendency to respond to media narratives and political drivers. But Buzz and his team helped to inform us regarding the ready professionals of the U.S. Merchant Marine and the U.S. fleet, and how we can respond to those storms.”
He continued, describing CBP’s efforts during and after the devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and then spoke on the response from the merchant fleet: “I can tell you, it was an enormous relief … when we could rely on our partners in the U.S. fleet to begin the heavy relief effort, to get those adequate supplies to the islands. I imagine General McDew can attest, it’s a relief when you can get from the aircraft part of logistics to the bigsurface transportation. We tremendously appreciate the impact that your community had on those efforts. Companies like Crowley, TOTE, Foss Maritime – just to name a few – were instrumental in getting those critical supplies to the American people. And more specifically, there were many anecdotes of merchant mariners assisting CBP personnel situated in the way of that storm along the Texas and Louisiana coast, in Florida, and especially in Puerto Rico. On behalf of my agents, I thank you for all that you did.”
Later he referenced how CBP is working to help make mariners’ lives easier through their national Jones Act Division of Enforcement, or JADE, saying, “Nearly two years ago, CBP’s Office of Field Operations created JADE to assist CBP and industry partners and protect the U.S. maritime industry. Located in our New Orleans field office and led by Port Director Mike Hebert – who’s been part of the Gulf Coast maritime community since his birth – and staffed by subject matter experts, JADE works with industry stakeholders on the enforcement of the Jones Act, as well as other coastwise trade laws. JADE provides uniformity throughout CBP on matters related to the Jones Act, providing advice to our external partners in order to facilitate legitimate trade.”
After a video on the hurricane response in 2017 was screened for the audience, General McDew took to the stage. He began by talking about military sealift’s role in our nation’s ability to project power, saying, “There are, some would argue, only three great powers in the world. There’s only one superpower in the world. And it’s not because we have the greatest soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen – although we do. It’s not because we have the best fighter jets, and we arguably do, and it’s not because we have the most wonderful carriers in the world, and we do. It’s because we have the ability to have an effect on our adversaries near and abroad at the time of our choosing. We can bring an overwhelming force anywhere on the planet, and there are adversaries out there who only wish they had that capability. That capability resides with the men and women in this audience and the people you represent that are around the world. And as a combatant commander, I recognize our superpower status as a nation, our ability to have the respect of everyone in the world, resides with you.
“I appreciate every single day the ships that sail for USTRANSCOM,” he continued. “They transit dangerous waters, they deliver critical cargo…. Our adversaries really don’t want them there, but our mariners go there anyway. Our warfighters don’t have to worry about having enough ammo for the fight, or fuel for their patrol, or food in chow halls – that’s a big deal, by the way – and it’s because of you.”
McDew then urged that the U.S. “reinvest in our strategic sealift fleet, and our ability to surge and sustain our warfight.” Specifically, he underscored the importance of recapitalizing the sealift fleet, replacing older vessels with newer, more modern ships.
“I am every day grateful and thankful for the shipyards, the shipping companies, the unions, the longshoremen, the stevedores, the engineers, the mariners, the pilots, the shipbuilder, all the people who make this unheralded, untold story happen every single day,” he concluded.
The ceremony concluded with a singalong of “Heave Ho,” official song of the U.S. Maritime Service, enthusiastically led by Admiral Buzby.
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President Trump Issues Proclamation For National Maritime Day
On National Maritime Day, we recognize the critical role the United States Merchant Marine plays in bolstering national security and facilitating economic growth. We honor our merchant mariners for their contributions to connecting the States, supporting our military, and cementing ties among our allies.
Long known as the “Fourth Arm of Defense,” the United States Merchant Marine has served with valor and distinction in every American conflict. The important work of the Merchant Marine was never more evident than during World War II, when merchant mariners sailed dangerous seas and fought enemies as they connected our Armed Forces fighting abroad to vital supplies produced by hardworking Americans at home. In the course of their valiant efforts, they endured the loss of more than 730 large vessels, and more than 6,000 merchant mariners died at sea or as prisoners of war.
Today, American mariners facilitate the shipment of hundreds of billions of dollars of goods along maritime trade routes for American businesses and consumers. Merchant mariners are ambassadors of good will, projecting a peaceful United States presence along the sea lanes of the world and into regions of core strategic importance to our Nation. Often risking their lives by sailing into war zones, our merchant mariners continue to support our troops overseas by providing them with needed cargo and logistical support. They also advance humanitarian missions worldwide, including last year’s effort to ship tens of thousands of containers of lifesaving supplies to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after they had been devastated by hurricanes.
The Congress, by a joint resolution approved May 20, 1933, has designated May 22 of each year as “National Maritime Day” to commemorate the first transoceanic voyage by a steamship in 1819 by the S.S. Savannah. By this resolution, the Congress has authorized and requested the President to issue annually a proclamation calling for its appropriate observance.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 22, 2018, as National Maritime Day. I call upon the people of the United States to mark this observance and to display the flag of the United States at their homes and in their communities. I also request that all ships sailing under the American flag dress ship on that day.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand eighteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-second.
Donald J. Trump