National defense, transportation leaders laud patriotism, service of U.S. merchant mariners ‘our greatest asset’

U.S. defense and transportation leaders honored the rich history of the U.S. Merchant Marine but kept a sharp focus on the future during a National Maritime Day observance in Washington D.C., hosted by the Department of Transportation on May 22.

Themed: “Mariners Move the Nation! Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow,” the event featured speeches by military and government leaders and maritime industry stakeholders, and displayed video tributes to World War II U.S. Merchant Marine veterans. Officials from American Maritime Officers and American Maritime Officers Service attending the ceremony were AMO National Vice President, Government Relations, Christian Spain; AMO Director of Government Relations Alaina Basciano; and AMOS Legislative Consultant Brenda Otterson.

“Our union was founded by U.S. Merchant Marine veterans of World War II and our membership has carried on that tradition of service since its inception,” Spain said. “The vital roles served by American mariners with unwavering dedication continue through this day, and we must invest in the future to build and support the next generation of U.S. merchant mariners.”

“It was an honor to represent American Maritime Officers Service at the ceremony at the Department of Transportation on May 22, National Maritime Day,” Otterson said. “It is important that our nation recognize the sacrifices and the contributions that U. S. mariners have made throughout the history of the United States.”

Speakers at the event focused on mariners’ critical roles in national security and the nation’s economic prosperity.

“Mariners are patriots. They are people of deeds, not words. They will be there for us when we need them. And when they are called, they will rise to the occasion, taking cargoes to the four corners of the world across contested seas in support of our national defense,” said Commander of United States Transportation Command Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost. “Our nation will continue to rely on well-trained merchant mariners to meet the challenges of contested environments in the face of a persistent, capable adversary.”

Also addressing the gathering was Department of Transportation Under Secretary Carlos Monje, who thanked merchant mariners for keeping the nation on course during the pandemic and pledged his department’s continued support in growing the domestic maritime industry. He said the increased funding for port infrastructure and improvement projects under the Biden Administration, and new government initiatives such as the Cable Security Program and the Tanker Security Program, are clear signs that supporting the U.S. Merchant Marine is at the top of the nation’s priority list.

“This administration is unwavering in its support of the Jones Act, which is a cornerstone of our maritime industry,” Monje said. “We are working to strengthen the maritime industry and invest in our future … This administration is working to grow our fleet and add essential new capabilities.”

U.S. Maritime Administrator Rear Adm. Ann Phillips (U.S. Navy, retired) addressed the importance of growing the ranks of the mariner pool, which is a critical initiative to reach national defense goals. She thanked the nation’s maritime academies and the maritime labor unions for continuing to provide qualified and well-trained mariners to continue the proud tradition of undertaking a seagoing career.

“We are short the number of mariners needed in the event of a full mobilization exceeding four to six months, which is a very real scenario in a large-scale deployment. We are working a whole of government and stakeholder approach to recruit, train and retain mariners,” Phillips said.

“Our mariners, our people, are our greatest asset.”