Video: MARAD Commemorates National Maritime Day

WWII merchant convoy in the North Atlantic (USN file image)

Published May 22, 2020 7:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

In a video address relased on National Maritime Day, U.S. Maritime Administrator Rear Adm. Mark "Buzz" Buzby (USN, ret'd) reminded mariners that the industry has overcome significant challenges before - and that thanks to their efforts, it is persevering and completing the mission in another challenging era. 

"Even since before the founding of our nation, this industry has persevered - through a Revolutionary War, a Civil War, two World Wars and any number of regional conflicts. The merchant marine has always been there and has never faltered," said Rear Adm Buzby. "And here we are, the merchant marine is still persevering through it all."

Buzby recalled the countermeasures taken by generations past in order to get through and get the cargo delivered - like the convoys and escort systems deployed for U.S. merchant shipping in the Second World War - and compared those battlefield adaptations to the countermeasures needed for COVID-19.

"We have to come up with countermeasures that are going to mitigate that [COVID-19] risk and keep our ships sailing. And you're doing that - whether it's through personal protective equipment, social distancing, contact tracking, deep cleaning of vessels, you're making it happen and you're still getting our ships through," he said. "And I think that's a real tribute as much to you and this generation as it was to those who preceded you in previous generations - you did what you had to do to get those ships through, and I think that that is something that you should all be very proud of."

He cautioned that the COVID-19 crisis is not yet over but expressed confidence that with the right measures and a dose of perseverance, the industry will come through as it has before. 

This National Maritime Day is particularly special, as it marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War - and a long-overdue measure of recognition for the American merchant mariners of the Greatest Generation. President Donald Trump recently signed into law a bill awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to all of the American merchant mariners of WWII. 

 "Many of these mariners endured brutal attacks from German U-boats, and more than 6,000 of them perished at sea or were held as prisoners of war. This number includes 142 students of the United States Merchant Marine Academy - distinguishing it as the only one of the five service academies authorized to carry a battle standard," wrote Trump in a proclamation (since removed). According to the Maritime Administration, about 9,500 members of the World War II merchant marine lost their lives over the course of the conflict.