The union’s executive board has announced the appointments of two longtime officials to new positions following the recent retirement of SIU Vice President Government Services Kate Hunt (see story, page 6).
Nicholas Celona succeeds Hunt as vice president, while Amancio Crespo fills Celona’s former spot as an assistant vice president.
Both Celona and Crespo are well acquainted with the union. Celona is a 1977 graduate of Paul Hall Center Trainee Class 229. Crespo graduated from the trainee program in 1990. Both sailed for several years before coming ashore to work for the union.
“My goals are to promote, protect and defend the U.S. Merchant Marine and the SIU Government Services Division, which in turn will help ensure our national security,” Celona said. “We have to make sure that supplies get through to our troops.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Celona graduated from Lafayette High School in 1976 and soon thereafter found a home with the SIU. After completing the trainee program, he sailed in the engine department until 1982, upgrading several times along the way (most recently to chief electrician). He sailed on vessels operated by Sea-Land, Maritime Overseas, Delta Line, American Hawaii Cruises, Bay Tankers and others.
“The sense of adventure from shipping out was life-changing as a young man,” he recalled. “I fell in love with it right away. When I was called ashore to work as an official, I did everything possible to help the membership and our union to grow.”
Celona worked as a patrolman in New Orleans from 1983-88 and was involved in multiple inland beefs. He spent 1989 serving as the port agent in Piney Point before what turned out to be a long-term move to the West Coast. Celona was the union’s San Francisco port agent from 1990-94; he became an assistant vice president in 1994.
Among other activities, he served as a delegate on the San Francisco-Alameda Labor Council, secretary-treasurer of the local port council, and a governor-appointed member of the board of directors of the Cow Palace (a popular, multi-purpose arena in Daly City, California).
Always politically active, Celona organized the union’s annual Thanksgiving gatherings in San Francisco and Oakland, which ran for 29 straight years before temporarily being derailed due to the pandemic. Those feasts evolved into a Who’s Who of politics, with regular appearances from Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, John Garamendi, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Spier and many others. Based on his extensive work with the military, Celona in 2002 was sworn in as an honorary U.S. Marine, a rarity.
He will be based in New Orleans.
Crespo sailed for six years, both in the deck and steward departments, and also worked on a shore gang before serving as a patrolman beginning in 1997. A Brooklyn native (he is good-natured about not having the accent), he became the union’s port agent in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2005 and has held that post ever since.
Crespo played a major role in helping open the new hiring hall in Puerto Rico in 2018, and he also has stepped up on numerous occasions to spearhead local relief efforts following storms that have battered the island territory, including in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in September 2017. He plays a leading role in the union’s participation in “BookWaves,” a joint effort between the SIU, American Federation of Teachers and Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, among others, to provide free educational reading material to school-age children.
He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Caribbean University and is a U.S. Army veteran who never misses a chance to promote the union and the maritime industry.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to work on behalf of our union members and the industry,” Crespo stated. “It’s all about family – every time I can do something for our members, it’s worthwhile.”