NOVEMBER 15, 2012 — Officers and crewmembers of the Crowley Maritime Corp.-managed M/V Ocean Titan and two MSC ships, USNS 1ST LT Baldomero Lopez (T-AK 3010) and USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), were recently honored at the the United Seamen's Service's 2012 Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) awards ceremony in New York.
The Crowley mariners were recognized with an AOTOS Mariner's Plaque for their December 2011 rescue of the seven-member crew of the M/V Florece, which sank about 250 miles southwest of Land's End in the Bay of Biscay, near the United Kingdom following a collision with the tanker M/V Afrodite. Accepting the award on behalf of the ship's officers and crew was Capt. Christopher Hill, master on the M/V Ocean Titan.
The account of the incident provided by the USS said the collision caused the Florece to sink to the ocean floor within an hour, causing the crew of seven to take to lifeboats. Shortly thereafter, the crew of the M/V Ocean Titan received the distress call and, upon arriving on scene, launched rescue operations. The crew faced gale-force winds and 12- to 14-foot seas, and had a full load of cargo. To ensure the crew's safety, Captain Hill decreased the vessel's speed to prevent broaching as he approached, and then idled near the life raft. He used the engines and rudder to block the swell and minimize roll, moving close enough to pull the survivors on board from the raft using a heaving line.
"The Ocean Titan crew saved lives, while demonstrating proficiency and devotion to duty in keeping with the highest traditions of the sea," wrote the USS in its account of the rescue.
"On behalf of everyone at Crowley, we want to commend crew of the Ocean Titan for their truly heroic act," said Mike Golonka, vice president, ship management. "Capt. Hill and his crew showed extraordinary skill to ensure the safety of their own lives while fighting through extreme weather to rescue their seven fellow mariners. Without the crew's bravery, those men may not be alive today."
The M/V Ocean Titan crew involved in the rescue included Capt. Hill, Chief Mate Thomas Lisante, Second Mate Daniel Landgrebe, Third Mate Zachary Gray, Chief Engineer John Vlahakis, First Assistant Engineer Sean Donovan, Bosun Magdy Balat, AB Hilario Rochez, AB James Luttrell, AB Miguel Angel Matos, QMED Electrician Michael Kelly, GUDE Stephon Thompson, Steward Lawrence Winfield and ACU Steven Holmes.
The M/V Ocean Titan is operated by Intermarine LLC through its U.S.-flag affiliate, US Ocean LLC, as part of its U.S.-flag heavy-lift service. Crowley began managing vessels for Intermarine in October 2011, including the technical management of the M/V Ocean Titan in April 2012. This U.S.-flag, heavy-lift/multipurpose cargo vessel operates around the world and is 393 feet long with a gross tonnage of 7,252.
Hundreds of U.S. maritime leaders from industry and government attended the event, regarded as the U.S. maritime industry's most prestigious awards event. Awards commend the heroism and outstanding seamanship of American seafarers who have risked their lives to save others.
The officers and crew of USNS 1ST LT Baldomero Lopez (T-AK 3010), under the leadership of civilian master Captain Peter Clark, were honored for their actions when Lopez, as part of MSC's Prepositioning Ship Squadron Two, was forward-deployed at the central Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia and a civilian mariner became gravely ill with a heart-related medical problem. When the mariner collapsed in the ship's galley, Chief Mate Dave Schumacker alerted Captain Clark.
Captain Clark directed 3rd Mate Jacob George to assist in establishing an airway, while he began administering CPR procedures and then the Automated External Defibrillator. After several jolts the patient began breathing, and crew members administered oxygen. The patient was quickly taken ashore, where he received further treatment.
Bob Kiefer, executive vice president of American Maritime Officers – of which Clark is a member – accepted the award on behalf of the Lopez crew.
The United Seamen's Service also presented a special recognition plaque to the crew of USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), under the leadership of civil service master Captain Jonathan Olmsted, who received the award on behalf of his ship.
Mercy was recognized for its role as the lead vessel for Pacific Partnership 2012. Seventy civil service mariners, and approximately 400 Navy, Army and non-governmental organization personnel aboard Mercy returned to San Diego Sept. 14 after steaming more than 20,000 miles – nearly the distance of circling the equator – to Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia for the mission.
MSC's civil service mariners were responsible for Mercy's operation and navigation. In addition, since the ship is too large for pierside visits, mariners operated small boats to transport patients and personnel between ship and shore.
As part of the medical outreach effort, which took place both ashore and aboard the ship, Mercy's team treated more than 49,000 people ashore, including providing dental care and services like the distribution of eyeglasses and sunglasses. The team performed more than 900 shipboard surgeries, and treated or evaluated more than 7,000 livestock and domestic animals.
Navy Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, commander, MSC, commended Mercy's crew members for their work during Pacific Partnership 2012 during remarks at the AOTOS banquet.
"During that mission, the crew and medical staff aboard Mercy, including Navy and non-governmental personnel from many organizations and nations, touched the lives of nearly 50,000 people in need of medical and civic assistance. Many of those contacts were life-changing," he said.
Accepting the AOTOS Mariners' Plaque on behalf of the officers and crew of the M/V Ocean Titan was Captain Christopher Hill (second from right). Accepting the Mariners' Plaque on behalf of the officers and crew of the USNS 1st LT Baldomero Lopez was AMO National Executive Vice President Robert Kiefer. With them at the AOTOS awards ceremony were (left to right) AMO National Assistant Vice President David Weathers, AMO National President Thomas Bethel and AMO National Secretary-Treasurer José Leonard. Photo courtesy AMO.