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Honoring the Merchant Mariner; National Maritime Day 2022

24 May 2022

From Bill Mesta, USN Military Sealift Command

NORFOLK, Va. -- National Maritime Day is celebrated each year to recognize some of our nation’s most important professionals, the Merchant Mariners. This day is set aside to honor the dedication and sacrifices, both past and present, our nation’s U.S. Merchant Mariners make every day.

Military Sealift Command (MSC) supported a National Maritime Day 2022 celebration in Norfolk, Virginia, May 19. The event, sponsored by the Propeller Club of Norfolk and Maersk Line, Limited, included featured remarks by Capt. Janis C. Smith, Chief of Staff, Military Sealift Command.

“In 1933, the U.S. Congress declared National Maritime Day to commemorate the 1819 voyage of the American steamship Savannah from the United States to England,” according to Smith. “Since that time National Maritime Day has evolved to become so much more as we recognize the importance of the entire maritime industry to our nation’s economic strength.”

“A robust maritime industry is absolutely vital for our national security,” said Smith. “The Department of Defense depends on the Merchant Marine for over 95 percent of our sealift needs in times of war or national emergency.”

This event included a ‘Laying of the Wreath’ ceremony to honor mariners throughout history who lost their lives at sea.

MSC also supported this year’s National Maritime Day at a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Maritime Administration in Washington D.C., May 24. Rear Adm. Michael Wettlaufer, Commander, Military Sealift Command, spoke at the celebration.

“American Mariners remain essential to our economy and defense,” Wettlaufer said. “The close collaboration between, and integration across our commercial and labor partners, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Maritime Administration, the shipbuilding and repair industry, the DoD and the U.S. Merchant Mariner allow our nation to retain a vital strategic advantage – an advantage that allows the joint force to maneuver across the globe at the time and to the place of our choosing in peacetime and conflict.”

MSC’s fleet of over 130 U.S. Naval Vessels and U.S. Navy combatant ships are crewed by approximately 7,000 Civil Service Mariners and contracted Mariners.

“We must support today’s Mariners and grow the Merchant Mariner community,” stated Wettlaufer. “The competition for talent (in the workforce) is fierce. As we look to encourage and recruit the next generation, the maritime industry must be an attractive career choice against a backdrop of many choices.”

“It is no surprise that competitive pay, advancement and predictable work-life balance are keys to recruiting a capable and diverse workforce,” he added. “But, relevant and accessible training, positive and safe working environments and new technology applications will help us retain and grow the best talent.”

During his address, Wettlaufer referenced the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Honoring World War II Merchant Mariners, which took place at the U.S. Capital in Washington D.C., May 18.

“Those Mariners and their shipmates of the Navy Armed Guard sailed the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian Ocean and across the Arctic Circle to link domestic production and the fighting forces overseas as they achieved the greatest logistics victory in history,” Wettlaufer stated.

During World War II, more than 250,000 members of the American Merchant Marine served their country, with more than 9,000 mariners killed at sea and 12,000 wounded.

“So, as we celebrate the heritage of the U.S. Maritime industry and all who support it, let’s acknowledge we have noble work to do, to live up to all who made this history,” Wettlaufer concluded.


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