USS bestows AOTOS awards at annual New York event

From left: Captain Tom Bushy, Captain Fred Walley, Acting US Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen, Chief Engineer Keith Madding, Captain Daniel Vonder Haff, Captain Chris Nette and Mr. Robert Kiefer From left: Captain Tom Bushy, Captain Fred Walley, Acting US Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen, Chief Engineer Keith Madding, Captain Daniel Vonder Haff, Captain Chris Nette and Mr. Robert Kiefer

NOVEMBER 20, 2013 — Philip W. J. Fisher, President of Chas. Kurz & Co; U. S. Representative Peter King, Republican of New York; and Emanuel Rouvelas, maritime attorney and partner at K & L Gates were awarded Admiral of the Ocean Sea Awards (AOTOS) when United Seamen's Service (USS) held its 44th annual OTOS dinner and dance at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel in New York City on November 15. The event attracted more than 700 guests attended the 44th annual dinner and dance at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel in New York City on November 15.

The officers and crews of six different vessels that proved heroism in their rescue attempts were presented the AOTOS Mariners' Plaque. Chief Engineer Keith Madding of Crowley Maritime Corporation's Tugboat Guard and Petty Officer Omar Alba of the U.S. Coast Guard received the AOTOS Mariner's Rosettes.

The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley and Acting Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen presented the AOTOS Mariner's Plaques and Rosettes. The first rosette was presented by Ms. Bentley to Mr. Madding.

On October 31, 2012, Guard was moving through the water of San Francisco Bay and raced to the aid of a man struggling in the water and threw a life ring. Mr. Madding scrambled into a survival suit and jumped into the 55-degree water and guided the fatigued man on the climb up the tugboat's emergency ladder.

Petty Officer Omar Alba was awarded the rosette for his heroic and unselfish actions when on November 12, 2012, in terrible Alaska weather, when the tug M/V Polar Wind was in distress and grounded on Ukolnois Island, Alaska. Within minutes, Petty Officer Alba and the crew of helicopter CG 6544 were airborne, headed on a 240 nautical mile flight to the scene, where they found the grounded tug alongside a 200-foot cliff. Petty Officer Alba was deployed by cable to the tug, where he put himself at risk but facilitated the rescue of five seafarers.

The AOTOS Mariners' Plaque was presented to the captain and crew of the Military Sealift Command oceanographic survey ship USNS Bowditch, Military Sealift Command, for their heroic act off the Tubbahata Reef, Philippines on January 17, 2013, where the grounding of an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship triggered an immediate call for support from the Bowditch. In steadily deteriorating weather conditions with winds in excess of 25 knots, and associated high seas over the shallow reef, the Bowditch joined MSC-chartered ship M/V C-Champion on scene, working closely with the Philippine Coast Guard.

The mission was to evacuate the grounded ship's 79-person crew and within three hours, all were safely evacuated. The seamanship and professionalism of the crew of the Bowditch were instrumental in saving 79 lives and helping protect a valuable marine resource from further damage. The crew's efforts were in keeping with the highest traditions of maritime service.

The second plaque was given to the officers and crew of the Maersk Utah, after a two day life-saving situtation off Cape Passero, Siciliy on August 9-10, 2013 which led to rescue and recovery of 83 Syrian boat refugees. The boat, approximately 15 meters long, was carrying people of various ages, gender and physical condition. The large containership sheltered the small craft as winds and seas continued to increase. After a total of eight hours, transfer of the refugees to Italian vessels began in the pre-dawn hours .

The third mariners' plaque was presented to the to the officers and crew of Crowley's M/V Ocean Atlas, which was attacked by pirates on November 21, 2012 off the coast of Lome, Togo, Africa.

The vessel was waiting to receive fuel in a congested area. The on-board security team was watching to ensure a safe perimeter was maintained. Suddenly, a skiff carrying a half-dozen pirates threaded its way toward the ship, concealing itself behind vessels in the area.

The pirates twice attempted to board the Ocean Atlas using a rope-and-wood ladder, but failed when surveillance teams spotted them and worked with crew members to repel them. Throughout the attack attempts, the ship's security team guarded all entry points, deterring the pirates even in their second effort, a half-hour after the first, this time from three separate skiffs. The ship's crew radioed the Togo Navy to request assistance.

The crew's performance in this high-stress situation showed a high level of professionalism and the value of Crowley's anti-piracy security and safety training.

The final plaques were awarded to the officers and crews of training ships Kennedy, Empire State and Wright during October and November 2012, following the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy off the U. S. East Coast. The impact of the storm led MARAD to activate the three training vessels under provisions of the 2006 Post-Katrina Recovery Act. The three vessels were assigned to support a variety of agencies involved in the recovery efforts.

American Overseas Marine Corporation, Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE) and Crowley Technical Services were assigned to each manage one ship. Rapid crewing followed ensuring vessels were stocked to support extra personnel required to live on the vessels in the disaster regions. Based at SUNY Maritime College and Homeport Pier in Staten Island, the vessels housed an average of 900 DHS or FEMA affiliated Emergency Responders each day.

This unique capability allowed around-the-clock services tothe emergency responders. The vessels provided a total of 38,291 berthing nights, 74,540 meals and cost avoidance of millions of dollars to DHS/FEMA and the U.S. taxpayers.

USS has presented nearly 2,000 Honored Seafarer Awards in the past 43 years. 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. USS, a non-profit agency established in 1942, operates centers in six foreign ports in Europe, Asia, and Africa and in the Indian Ocean, and also provides seagoing libraries to American vessels through its affiliate, the American Merchant Marine Library Association.

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