Reconnecting with the U.S. maritime industry, and from there, the world

By Willie Barrere

What is AMO and what does it do?

This is a frustrating question, especially when you’re hearing it from seniors at a maritime academy or from people involved in the maritime industry.

What is the U.S. maritime industry?

This is also a question of great concern and is often heard from two groups of people – young people being advised of potential career and college opportunities, and the general public. I’m sure many of us have heard it before.

This information gap is not an abstract problem. We are feeling its impact every day in our working lives, and these questions define the challenges we face in expanding our membership.

There was a sharp drop-off in interaction and outreach during the pandemic nationwide and around the world, and the maritime industry was no exception. Although many more people are now familiar with the concept of supply chains, I think not enough has been done in the time since to raise awareness about what AMO is and what we offer, and about the maritime industry as a whole.

Not enough information has been injected into the public discourse for most people to be aware of the outstanding job and career opportunities available in the maritime industry and how important the U.S. Merchant Marine is in so many ways.

If our input is the academies’ output, it is clear we need to reinvest in marketing ourselves and spreading the word.

Over the past few weeks, myself and other representatives of AMO participated in the Maritime Industry Congressional Sail-In on Capitol Hill, Maritime Administration meetings on EMBARC and work-life balance, maritime academy career fairs, and the Sea-Air-Space Conference. We also hosted the Training Needs Conference at STAR Center to address how to best meet commercial and government maritime training needs now and in the years to come.

We are attending, sponsoring and/or supporting industry-related functions and linking these with visits to our contracted companies – encouraging them to attend career fairs, recruit and also increase their outreach to the industry and the world. We are sponsoring academy scholarships and supporting organizations that span the industry – WISTA, CAMM, Women on the Water, Seafarers International House, and other organizations that support the maritime workforce.

By the end of April, I will have met with senior management at 15 of our contracted operating companies since taking office. These in-person meetings go a long way toward renewing relationships and fostering expanded interest in recruiting and retention.

There are many avenues to pursue as we seek to broaden our horizon within our industry and in the world at large. We are learning about them, reconnecting, and preparing to do more. With enough work done in the right way, we are hoping to hear a different question much more often.

How do I become an AMO member and participate in the U.S. maritime industry?