The latest recipient of a prestigious annual safety honor clearly has found a home in the U.S. Merchant Marine.
AB Austin Duckworth recently earned the Crowley Petroleum Services Safety Champion award – the highest individual accolade available in the company’s safety recognition program. Crowley Vice President Boren Chambers said Duckworth is “a good shipmate that looks out for his fellow crew.”
Duckworth, who often sails on the ATB Gulf Reliance/650-2, stated, “I feel good about receiving the award from Crowley because I know how they really try and uphold their safety standards. So many people have helped me, taught me and showed me how things should be done. I would say they are the real reason I won. In this environment, we all know not to be scared to say something if there’s anything that seems unsafe.”
The award is a milestone for someone who grew up fishing and working on the water in Ketchikan, Alaska, but didn’t immediately pursue his dream of entering the U.S. Merchant Marine. Duckworth, 28, had successfully completed a deckhand certification program offered by his high school, but after graduation, he worked at a local fishing lodge for a few years. The supportive owners inspired him to continue his education – and Duckworth did so at the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, located in Piney Point, Maryland.
Duckworth readily credits the Lund Maritime Scholarship program for facilitating his training in Piney Point. Coordinated by SEA Link, Inc., which is based in Alaska, the program is open to local high school and GED graduates.
Thinking back to the days before he first shipped out as an OS aboard the USNS Effective in 2016, Duckworth recalled, “I didn’t really know what to truly expect before entering this industry besides being gone for longer periods of time and making good money while traveling the world. But today, if someone wanted to enter this industry, I would say be ready for lifechanging adventure. You do have to prepare to be gone for long stretches, and also have an understanding that there are more opportunities out there if you’re willing to work for them.” Similarly, when recalling his extensive training at the Paul Hall Center’s Lundeberg School in 2015 and 2016, he recommends taking courses there – and being ready to fully apply oneself. “Piney Point’s expectations were to follow directions, understand the fundamentals of shipping and working in this industry and be able to overcome any discrepancies among one another to work together as a team,” Duckworth said. “If you have the time and your schedule permits it, you should take advantage of the free classes and housing (for eligible members) that Piney Point offers.”
As for shipboard work, it also agrees with Duckworth, who spent his first few years with the SIU sailing aboard military-support ships and tankers. He eventually chose to work closer to home, and found employment on Crowley ATBs in the Pacific Northwest.
“I love the fact that I am able to pump the barge with one other person and we can move millions of gallons from one place to another in just a matter of days, sometimes even hours,” he said. “My most memorable voyage would be our trips out to Dutch Harbor (Alaska), taking the inside passageways to keep clear from storms and being able to see all the wildlife, and rocks protruding from the mountain formations going directly into the ocean.”
He added that he has found SIU representatives helpful, and he’s had only positive experiences with the union.
As for the award, the company reported that Duckworth “was chosen for his outstanding performance throughout the year,” which included earning a monthly safety honor. As part of this recognition, Duckworth was presented with a challenge coin, and received a video call from shoreside management personnel.
For Duckworth, it’s an accolade that may not be his last. He plans to remain in the industry and eventually sail as a deep-sea captain.
“I love being able to see the world and what beauties are on every continent and being paid while doing it,” he concluded.