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The Honorable Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Accepts 2020 AOTOS Award

The United Seamen’s Service 51st annual Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) Award took place virtually on December 9, 2020. This year’s presentation highlighted the service of the entire American maritime community to the nation, with special recognition of four pillars of that community; the U.S. Maritime Administration; merchant mariners; U.S.-flag shipping companies and longshoremen. The traditional silver statuette of Christopher Columbus—the first Admiral of the Ocean Sea– was accepted by The Honorable Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, on behalf of the honorees. The statuette will bow have a permanent home displayed at MARAD Headquarters in Washington, DC.

During the event, which was recorded and is available above, Tom Crowley, Chairman and CEO addressed the attendees thanking them for their service and partnership during this trying year. Tom Crowley takes the stage at the 11:10 mark in the video and his transcript is as follows:

“Thank you Ken [Kenneth R. Wykle, LTG, US Army (Ret)], I am honored to be with you today and I am humbled to represent our industry at this important event. 

Before I share my thoughts, I’d like to thank Madam Secretary, the Honorable Elaine Chao for all she has done to support the U.S. maritime industry. Her leadership of the Department of Transportation has been exemplary in these trying times – and she is the most deserving person to receive the 51st annual AOTOS award on behalf of the industry and its mariners.   

I’d also like to recognize the great work of Admiral Buzby and his team. The cadence of Marad’s industry-wide conference calls, led by Admiral Buzby throughout the pandemic have been invaluable in bringing key stakeholders together to share creative ideas and best practices. The outcomes of those discussions have done much to keep mariners and shoreside personnel safe – while ensuring that supply chains have remained open and flexible.  

Importantly, our partnerships with labor have been essential in our shared success throughout this challenging time. This should surprise no one as our union brothers and sisters have always answered the call during difficult times – and they did so again in 2020 – extending tours onboard vessels, agreeing to high frequency COVID testing and adapting to the new normal of enhanced safety and hygiene protocols. Our labor partners continue to show the American work ethic in the very best light.

On shore, our administrative teams have also done a remarkable job adapting to the new normal. If you would have asked me a year ago if 95 percent of our personnel could work effectively from home, I would have questioned the probability of success. But COVID forced our hand, and by leveraging our people’s ingenuity, as well as our investments in technology, we have been remarkably successful in adapting our work processes.  Essential supply chains remain robust and that is good news for everyone. 

COVID awareness and prevention have become added layers of defense in our safety programs. The availability of PPE and timely testing and test result availability continues to be a challenge, although it is better than it was at the start of the pandemic.  

Our nation’s mariners play a vital role for the economy and the national defense. They live and work in close quarters onboard vessels and their protection must be our first priority. The integrity of our supply chains for food, medicines, essential goods and military equipment depends on it.  Prioritizing mariners for testing and early vaccination will do much to avoid supply chain disruption.

If we are to continue to protect our mariners for the duration of this pandemic, stakeholder collaboration is essential. After too many challenging months, when it comes to mariner safety, we should all recognize that we’re better together than any one of us could ever be working alone.

To our mariners, Secretary Chao, Admiral Buzby and all the stakeholders in our industry, thank you for all that you do.”