AMO members from C.S. Dependable, U.S. maritime industry leaders honored at 2017 AOTOS ceremony

American Maritime Officers members from the Cable Ship Dependable were among the mariners honored by the United Seamen's Service during the annual Admiral of the Ocean Sea dinner and awards ceremony in New York City on October 13.

On September 17, 2016, while in transit between work sites off the Maharashtra Coast near Mumbai, India, the C.S. Dependable rescued 14 fishermen whose boat sank with 16 persons aboard in the early hours before sunrise. They had no PFDs or VHF radio. They had managed to cling to floating debris, some just treading water.

Captain Scot Porter accepted the Admiral of the Ocean Sea Mariners' Plaque on behalf of the Dependable's officers and crew at the ceremony.

Reporting on the rescue operation in 2016, Captain Yann Durieux noted: "All hands were spread out on weather decks, bow, gangways, stern and bridge as lookouts. Deck gang and security team were at the gangways to recuperate men from the water. Reports came to the bridge by radio. We would focus a team to maintain lookout as we made way to the victims. Chief mate was on deck and cable highway managing ladders and gangways. Security team members were in harnesses on gangway. Personnel from all departments were at rails to send out life rings to persons in water. The ROV supervisor was at the bow with radio calling in sightings. Chief engineer had a fourth generator put on and assisted in search. I was trying to move the ship to the men keeping them away from thrusters. This required constant and good communication with personnel on deck keeping me apprised of the victims' relative positions. This was made difficult as we had about 2.5 knots of surface current (swell and wind generated). We used the CCTV system to monitor gangway pilot ladders, but this was difficult due to rain."

The Indian Naval Vessel F43 and Indian Coast Guard Vessel 201 arrived onsite and began searching for remaining survivors with us, he wrote. The MDR & security team medic attended to the rescued persons on the cable highway. Steward and crew had staged mattresses on the highway so we could keep them all together and better assist them. Crew, ROV and security team helped them. They were given food and water and many slept or rested, utterly exhausted. We brought them shirts, blankets and flip-flops (all we had for feet) from the slop chest, Durieux wrote.

Those rescued by the Dependable were transferred to the Indian Coast Guard vessel.

We stayed on station near CG 201 until we had confirmation that all 14 were aboard safely. At this point it was dark and we were heading closer to shallow water contours. The Coast Guard released us and we departed, Durieux wrote.

During the ceremony attended by approximately 700 representatives of maritime industry and labor, the United Seamen's Service presented AOTOS Awards to Andre Grikitis, president and CEO of Intermarine LLC; Captain Thomas Merrell, president of General Dynamics American Overseas Marine (AMSEA); and James Miller, chairman, board of directors, Philly Shipyard ASA.

During his term as president and CEO, and also while serving in the role of operating chairman, Grikitis has led the expansion and development of Intermarine and its services. These include a U.S.-flag fleet consisting of seven multi-purpose vessels engaged in worldwide trade. In his remarks, Grikitis said: "What we should all be doing is uniting the industry. Unity: through the communication of clear goals, in seeking support of these goals and the ability to provide better information. On an aspirational level, we must influence the maritime community and the general public via education."

Merrell has been with AMSEA since 1984 and became president of the company in 2008. In his remarks at the AOTOS ceremony, Merrell said: "In the wake of the devastating storms, Harvey, Irma and Maria, Jones Act waivers have been issued to assist in providing needed supplies (oil, gas, etc.). So, here we go again. These waivers sound the drumbeat for the 'repeal the Jones Act' crowd.

"It is astonishing that there is no mention, and therefore no acceptance, of the strategic importance of having U.S.-flag ships, with U.S. sailors to provide the logistical support to our military overseas," Merrell said. "With the Jones Act fully functioning, the U.S. economy is expected to grow significantly. By 2020, marine freight is anticipated to grow domestically by 43 percent and internationally a staggering 67 percent. There is room in that growth for the U.S. flag, providing jobs for our sailors, jobs for our shipyards and a reliable energy supply for the U.S. and our trading partners."

At Philly Shipyard, Miller previously served as president and CEO from June 2008 to April 2011. In his remarks, Miller addressed the shipyard's role in the renewal and growth in the domestic fleet under the Jones Act: "Philly Shipyard has turned out 27 magnificent, modern cargo ships for the Jones Act trades in recent years using union labor without any issues for companies representing more than 50 percent of the entire U.S. oceangoing commercial fleet production, for a variety of U.S. based shipping companies."

For AOTOS 2017, U.S. Senator Cory Booker was honorary chairman. Seafarers International Union President Michael Sacco served as dinner chairman. American Maritime Officers Service President/Chairman F. Anthony Naccarato, as well as Joseph Cox, were National Committee co-chairmen.

Proceeds from the AOTOS event benefit USS community services abroad for the U.S. merchant marine, seafarers of all nations, and U.S. government and military overseas. Edward Morgan is president and Roger Korner is executive director of USS. Barbara Spector Yeninas is USS AOTOS coordinator.