The following is excerpted from an article posted by the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO, with which American Maritime Officers is affiliated.
In a year in which the unconventional became conventional, American maritime workers and the U.S.-flag shipping industry all received recognition for a job well done for their service to the nation during the coronavirus epidemic from the United Seamen's Service.
Unlike its 50 previous annual ceremonies that honored Labor, government and management leaders, the service's Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) Award for 2020 was dedicated to the men and women of the U.S. Merchant Marine during a Zoom ceremony on December 9.
Receiving the AOTOS statue of Christopher Columbus was U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The statue will be displayed at the Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Chao referred to the U.S.-flag industry as a partnership that works together very well. She saluted the industry for stepping up and delivering throughout the crisis.
In opening her remarks, Chao specifically praised MTD President Michael Sacco. "He is always championing the issues and concerns of his rank-and-file members," she told the nationwide audience.
While speaking on behalf of U.S. merchant mariners, Sacco acknowledged the vital work performed by seafarers around the world.
"One of the few bright spots of 2020 was the work of the merchant marine," Sacco stated.
America's mariners "handled" working during the virus "like the professionals you are. You always delivered."
William Adams, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, represented the nation's dockers during the session.
Adams noted several dock workers lost their lives to COVID simply by doing their jobs.
"Our members are essential workers," he declared. "We are heroes without capes. Dock workers kept the supply chain moving."
"Our union brothers and sisters have always answered the call, as they did in 2020," said Thomas B. Crowley, Jr., representing Jones Act carriers.
The chairman and CEO of Crowley Maritime Corp. continued: "Our nation's mariners play a vital role for the economy and national defense."
Speaking for the U.S.-flag international fleet, Maersk Line, Limited President William Woodhour described how the company worked with its contracted unions to move seafarers safely around the world.
"Mariners know it is more than a job, delivering vital supplies," Woodhour said.
U.S. Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby pointed out: "not many jobs in this industry can be done remotely." He saluted mariners and the industry, saying: "We needed everyone to get the job done and they got it done!"
General Stephen R. Lyons, commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, thanked mariners and industry for making sure "the mission never fails. Together, we will deliver."
Rear Adm. Michael A. Wettlaufer, commander of Military Sealift Command, applauded mariners for overcoming the challenges before them during the epidemic.