Seamen’s Church Institute hosts River Bell Awards Luncheon

Written by Marine Log Staff
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L to R: SCI President & Executive Director the Rev. David M. Rider, River Bell Award Winner Delbert R. Wilkins of Illinois Marine Towing, Merritt Lane, President & CEO of Canal Barge Company (Photo courtesy of the Seamen’s Church of New York and New Jersey.)

The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) has presented its prestigious River Bell Award to Delbert R. Wilkins of Illinois Marine Towing. The award was presented December 5, 2019 at SCI’s 20th Annual River Bell Awards Luncheon, held at the Paducah McCracken County Convention & Expo Center. The event raised a record-breaking $324,600.

After being introduced by Merritt Lane, President & CEO of Canal Barge Company, Wilkins recounted a life of dramatic joys and challenges with his career. He expressed deep appreciation for those who valued hard work, “didn’t always choose the politically correct option,” and took a chance on him in leadership roles.

In addition, James “Goat” Patters was presented with the River Legend Award, while all the industry’s mariners were recognized with a Distinguished Service Award.

“Today, we gather to celebrate two distinguished and unique individuals, who have dedicated careers and personal resources to improving all aspects of our industry – including safety and professionalism – by sharing lessons learned, instituting best practices, and collaborating with peers in the industry and related associations,” said SCI President & Executive Director the Rev. David M. Rider. “We also celebrate the contributions of our industry’s mariners who face unique challenges but do so with grace and dedication – inspiring us all.

George Foster of JB Marine Service presented James “Goat” Patterson with SCI’s River Legend Award. After a series of positions of increasing responsibility in the river industry beginning with the role of dispatcher at The Valley Line Company, Goat founded the harbor fleeting company, Osage Marine Services in 1999. Osage continues to operate fleeting services in cooperation with Consolidated Grain & Barge at five locations and totaling 18 boats.

“During all these years, I have had the good fortune to establish many relationships, both business and personal, with the great people of this industry,” said Patterson.

“This year has been particularly tough for the industry,” said River Bell Awards Luncheon Committee Chair, and President and CEO of American Commercial Barge Line (ACBL) Mark Knoy. “We know this takes a toll on our bottom line, but more so on the mariners themselves … SCI has been recognizing mariners and their contributions all year long at our events. Mariners are the first line of defense in keeping our waters safe, clean and efficient. Working in all sorts of weather, spending time away from family and friends, dealing with the stress of the ups and downs of this industry and providing support for one another – all fitting reasons to acknowledge our mariners with a Distinguished Service Award.”

Captain Michael Burkhart of Ingram Barge Company and Captain Greg Smith of ACBL, nominated by company management and chosen by an SCI panel, accepted the Distinguished Service Award on behalf of all mariners.

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