AMO: Respected Union Leader Capt. Mike Finnigan Passes at 57
Captain Michael F. “Mike” Finnigan, master mariner and beloved figure in the U.S. maritime industry, passed away March 19 at age 57 after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage at his home in Palm Coast, Florida.
Captain Finnigan (1963-2021) was known affectionately in the seafaring world as “Full Ahead Finnigan” in recognition of Mike’s extraordinary work ethic and his daily professional pace. He was serving his first term as the elected executive vice president of American Maritime Officers (AMO) - the nation’s largest union of civilian U.S. merchant mariners licensed as ships’ officers by the U.S. Coast Guard - when the tragedy occurred.
Captain Finnigan - a son of a U.S. tugboat captain who worked the Connecticut River following heroic service in the Korean War - began his seagoing career with the Seafarers International Union, working his way through the ranks in deck jobs on ocean-going U.S.-flagged cargo ships on international trade routes.
Mike earned his USCG license as third mate and joined American Maritime Officers in August 1994, working aboard the USNS Henson, a government-owned military support vessel managed by the private sector under Military Sealift Command.
As Mike advanced his deck credentials quickly to his captain’s license, defense shipping became his realm. His many years of service on military support ships included command of a ship within a U.S.-flagged vessel convoy referred to as the eight-mile “Steel Bridge” to the Persian Gulf, bringing defense vehicles, aircraft, missiles, weapons and ammunition to the Persian Gulf during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Between shipboard assignments, Captain Finnigan applied his knowledge of ship design to supervisory jobs with U.S. Navy personnel in U.S. shipyards building or converting cargo ships to military specifications for the worldwide supply of the U.S. armed forces.
While serving as executive vice president of American Maritime Officers, Captain Finnigan doubled as an unpaid member of the joint union-employer Boards of Trustees governing AMO Plans, the benefit funds covering all AMO members and their families. He participated actively and thoughtfully in each quarterly trustee meeting and in between, with near daily conversation with AMO Plans on health care and retirement security for AMO families.
This trustee work complimented Mike’s tireless commitment to the professional and personal interests of his AMO membership constituency. Captain Finnigan promoted and defended these interests in honest, articulate exchanges with employers and with government agencies, most recently on the impact of COVID-19 on all U.S. merchant mariners — many of whom had been mentored and assisted by Mike in their seagoing careers.
Captain Michael F. Finnigan is survived by his wife, Sue, by his mother and by his brothers and sisters. A memorial service will be held April 10, with more information forthcoming.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.