2017 Admiral of the Ocean Sea Awards Ceremony Champions The Jones Act

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The United Seamen’s Service (USS) 2017 Admiral of the Ocean Sea Awards (AOTOS) were presented before some 700 maritime industry leaders to Andre Grikitis, Operating Chairman, Intermarine LLC; Captain Thomas Merrell, President, General Dynamics American Overseas Marine (AMSEA) and James Miller, Chairman, Board of Directors, Philly Shipyard ASA. 

It also provided a forum to champion the much maligned Jones Act.

The American maritime industry’s most prestigious awards were presented at the 48th annual gala at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, New York City last week. 

Andre Grikitis has used a combination of personal commitment and business savvy to propel Intermarine LLC to the forefront of America’s heavy lift and specialized cargo vessels.

Speaking to a ballroom filled with international transportation management, labor and military leaders, 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. As a newly minted ‘Admiral’, I can only hope my views reach more ears than when I was a civilian, but, in keeping with the spirit of this moment, and speaking directly to all of you – I intend to only restate what must be evident to all of us here – and I believe the physical proximity we have here – can help bring our diverse views and goals together to form a more unified, singular voice that can communicate the realities and the status of our industry better, as well as, the consequences of the status quo. “

During his term as President and CEO, and currently as Operating Chairman, Grikitis led the expansion and development of the company and its services. These include a U.S. Flag fleet consisting of seven U.S. Flag multi-purpose vessels engaged in worldwide trade. 

Thomas Merrell leads one of America’s most productive U.S. – flag vessel operators. He has been with General Dynamics American Overseas Marine (AMSEA) since 1984 and was named President in 2008. He noted in his remarks: “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.” He added: “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. S1561 is a chilling example of how uninformed many in our Congress are when it comes to American flag shipping.  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% and internationally a staggering 67%.  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.”

After 20 years with AMSEA in 2004, he was named Vice President of Marine Operations, responsible for the efficiency of Marine Operations, Safety and Training, Insurance and Communications ashore and afloat for the American Overseas Marine fleet of over 21 vessels

Jim Miller is Chairman of the Board at Philly Shipyard and previously served as President and CEO of the Shipyard from June 2008 to April 2011. Recognizing as well the significance of the Jones Act, Miller noted that “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% of the entire U.S. oceangoing commercial fleet production, for a variety of U.S. based shipping companies, including Matson, OSG, Crowley, American Shipping Company, American Petroleum Tankers and SeaRiver Maritime, Inc.”  He also talked about his passion for the people who work at Philly, noting that they embraced each other as “family” from the day he began working there.

During his tenure at the shipyard, Miller was instrumental in reinvigorating the yard and positioning it for the increased oil transportation needs following the shale oil “revolution” in 2010 and onwards. Prior to his role at the shipyard, he was President of Aker Solutions Process and Construction (P&C) Americas, where he was responsible for the operations of seven business units. Philly Shipyard, was formerly Aker Philadelphia Shipyard.

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. The recipients shared the evening with a group of American seafarers who were awarded for heroism at sea.

For AOTOS 2017, The Honorable Cory A. Booker was Honorary Chairman. Michael Sacco, President of the Seafarers International Union, served as Dinner Chairman. F. Anthony Naccarato of American Maritime Officers Service and Joseph Cox were National Committee Co-Chairmen. 

The USS’ prestigious annual Admiral of the Ocean Sea Award dinner has been honoring American maritime management, labor and government leaders since 1970. The proceeds from this event help the USS to maintain services for seafarers against the ever-increasing cost of operations.  But further support is still needed from both the maritime community and the general public to ensure these vital services for seafarers can be continued and also to enable the USS to improve its facilities moving forward.

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor

Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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