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NOV. 2, 2018

Thank you. It is great to be back here with you again this year to honor another great group of mariners who have made outstanding contributions serving our industry with courage and integrity.

It’s a privilege I look forward to each year to share their stories with you.

The United Seaman’s Service has always been a good friend and supporter of our nation’s seafarers and one of the maritime administration’s key partners in supporting and promoting this great industry.

The first AOTOS mariner’s plaque goes to the —

Captain and crew of the M/V Edgar B. Speer
Keystone shipping company
Scene of action: 15 miles WNW of Ashtabula, Ohio on the Great Lakes
August 25, 2018

When third mate Kris Brecht received a radio distress message Aboard the M/V Edgar B. Speer, the ship’s crew immediately sprang to action.

U.S. Coast Guard’s Sector Buffalo had reported that a fishing vessel had capsized, prompting the Speer to immediately change course and go to stations for a rescue.

Once on the scene, the Speer launched a fast rescue boat and joined efforts with another vessel, the DB Charter, in rescuing three fishermen who were clinging to the sinking vessel.

The Speer’s crew, including its engineering personnel, quickly got additional generators online for bow thruster maneuvering while lookouts kept close watch over the foundering fishing vessel.

Led by chief officer Jim Stengel and ABU Frank Jackson, the deck crew provided extra lifesaving gear and manned the fast rescue boat responding through 25-30 mph winds and a 3-4’ chop.

The Speer’s master – Captain Rich Laskey observed that “We were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. The “rescue went perfectly.”

There is no doubt that the 27-man crew of the 1,000-foot-long Speer, part of the USS Great Lakes Fleet, performed with the utmost professionalism to save the lives of the fishermen. Here to accept the award is captain Richard A. Laskey.

The second AOTOS Mariner’s Plaque goes to:
The captain and crew of the m/v Norfolk of argent marine
Scene of action: some 700 miles east of the windward islands
February 4-5, 2018
When the m/v Moflete, a 50-ft sloop sailing from France to Martinique, issued a distress call, the 18,000-ton cargo M/V Norfolk sped to the scene in the Caribbean.

The Moflete had been running on one engine and had a damaged mast. In addition, the vessel’s captain had lost two fingers as a result of an accident.

Hours earlier, Norfolk had rendezvoused with the boat to provide medical aid to stABilize the captain’s injuries as the sloop continued on toward Martinique.

In deteriorating weather conditions hours later, with winds blowing 30 knots and with a 10-ft swell, conditions worsened for the Moflete, and m/v Norfolk was sent back to assist the vessel and its crew.
The Moflete was taking on water and beginning to founder as Norfolk arrived on scene. With weather too rough to launch a fast rescue boat, Norfolk was skillfully maneuvered alongside the sinking sloop, and the four crewmen were rescued.

The injured captain was subsequently transferred by helicopter to a hospital while the m/v Norfolk continued to port and discharged the Moflete’s crewmembers.

M/V Norfolk’s actions reflected the highest traditions of professional mariners.

Accepting the award is chief engineer James Brown.

The next AOTOS Mariner’s Plaque is being presented to:

Captain and crew of the tractor tug Michelle Sloan of Harley Marine Services
Scene of action: off Trinidad, California on April 18, 2018

The Midori, a 47-foot fishing boat, was on fire and burning out of control when it issued a mayday call at 0900 sending all nearby vessels into action, including the tractor tug Michelle Sloan.

The U.S. Coast Guard had directed another vessel, the F/V Pacific Bully, to rescue five fishermen who had already Abandoned ship. The tug Michelle Sloan was sent to fight the blaze.

En route, Michelle Sloan’s captain – Jason Lorenz established comms with the burning boat’s captain to confirm that the vessel was safe to approach and wouldn’t explode from fuels or other contaminants on board. By 10:30 a.m., the entire fishing vessel was burning fiercely from stem to stern.

The crew of the Michelle Sloan began fighting the flames, with mate Brian Edmiston, chief engineer Micah Denny and AB Dominic Grasseschi battling the blazing Midori from multiple stations. By noon they had extinguished the fire, saving Midori from sinking and preventing the release of 1,500 gallons of diesel into the water.

In addition to tonight’s well-deserved recognition, tug Michelle Sloan and her crew were also the recipient of the 2018 US Coast Guard Read Admiral William M. Benkert Environmental Protection Silver Award.

Here to accept tonight’s honor on behalf of the captain and crew is Kelly Moore, VP of Regional Operations for Harley Marine.

The AOTOS Mariner’s Rosette goes to:

Able bodied seaman Leo Onofrio of the M/V Patriot
American roll-on roll-off carrier
Scene of action: the Port of Manzanillo, Panama
March 29, 2018

When AB Leo Onofrio, serving on gangway watch of the M/V Patriot, was relieved by his crewmates to refill his water bottle, he heard a strange popping and hissing sound coming from a nearby vehicle in the cargo hold.

Investigating this noise, he observed fire and flames coming from the vehicle, and after notifying the officer on watch, Onofrio grabbed a fire extinguisher and began attacking the blaze.

By the time the chief mate arrived two minutes later, the hold was already filling with smoke, but Onofrio’s actions had extinguished the fire and averted certain disaster. Without his quick thinking and action, the fire would have quickly become a major conflagration causing extensive damage to both cargo and the M/V Patriot.

The crew of the M/V Patriot, an American roll-on roll-off carrier, commended AB Onofrio for his actions, saying, “we believe he acted in the best traditions of the U.S. Merchant Marine, and is a credit to himself and the Seafarers International Union.”

We are pleased to have AB Onofrio here tonight accept the rosette and plaque.

Updated: Monday, November 19, 2018