One of the American maritime industry’s strongest advocates is receiving one of its most prestigious awards.
The United Seamen’s Service (USS) in late June announced that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao will receive the 2019 Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) Award “based on her careerlong commitment to the maritime industry.” The other, previously announced recipients are James Given, president of the Seafarers International Union of Canada; Anil Mathur, president and CEO of Alaska Tanker Corp.; and Joseph Pyne, chairman of the board of Kirby Corporation.
The awards will be presented Nov. 1 in New York City, during the 50th annual AOTOS event. A number of U.S. mariners also will receive recognition for specific acts of bravery and heroism while at sea.
In announcing Chao’s selection, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wykle, USA, (Ret.), AOTOS committee chairman, said, “We are honored that Secretary Chao will attend the AOTOS event and personally accept the award.”
Chao assumed her office on Jan. 31, 2017. She was previously Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush.
Chao was raised in Queens, New York and subsequently earned her MBA from Harvard Business School. Early in her career, she specialized in transportation financing in the private sector. She began her executive career in public service working on transportation issues at the White House. She then served as Deputy Maritime Administrator, U.S. Department of Transportation; Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission; and, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
As U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Chao has been one of the strongest advocates for the U.S. maritime industry in Department history. She has consistently reiterated the need for a modern U.S.-flag fleet, crewed by skilled U.S. Merchant Mariners, as an important component of U.S. national security. To that end, more funding for the Maritime Administration has been requested than in any previous administration’s budgets – $682 million for FY 2020. She also advocated for additional new school training ships. And, as a signal of her unprecedented support for the U.S. maritime industry, within the first six months of her tenure as U.S. Secretary of Transportation she visited the Ready Reserve fleet in Beaumont, Texas, and toured two American-flagged vessels. She also gave her first commencement speech as Secretary to the graduating class of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on June 17, 2017.
“Secretary Chao brings to AOTOS her background in transportation, non-profit work, labor and a macro-view of all the sectors that apply to the mission of USS,” said General Wykle. “We look forward to greeting her on November 1.”
SIU President Michael Sacco described Chao as “someone who not only understands our industry, but also truly cares about the American worker. She is a tremendous leader and is universally respected, admired and trusted throughout our industry.”
The AOTOS Award commenced in 1970 and has honored more than 80 industry leaders, while the USS marks its 77th anniversary this year. USS President Edward Morgan noted, “Whether operating 144 service centers in 1942 to look after American seafarers and the military or ensuring we honor our true industry leaders as Admiral of the Ocean Sea, USS has continued to be an important presence in the American maritime industry.”
The USS continues to provide community services for the U.S. Merchant Marine, the American Armed Forces, and seafarers of the world. A nonprofit agency established in 1942, the USS 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.