More than 50 merchant mariners were recognized by the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) for their work to alleviate the suffering after last year’s hurricane season in a ceremony on Friday, October 26, on the SUNY Maritime College quad.
Friday’s event recognized the mariners who formed the crew of Training Ship Empire State VI following hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico after being activated to assist by the federal government.
Of the 52 mariners who made up the professional crew, six of them are year-round members of the Maritime College staff and 10 are alumni of Maritime College.
“Maritime College is proud of the role Empire State and its crew played in helping the people of Florida and Puerto Rico recover from last year’s devastating hurricanes,” said Rear Adm. Michael Alfultis, president of SUNY Maritime College. “This work demonstrates the value of our nation’s state maritime academies, especially in times of national disaster. We are honored to be recognized for the exceptional services Capt. Smith and the crew provided.”
Mariners in attendance at the ceremony will receive MARAD’s Merchant Marine Medal for Outstanding Achievement, which is given by the federal Maritime Administration for exceptional contributions to the United States merchant marine.
At the ceremony, Capt. Rick Smith, master of the training ship, will accept a certificate of merit, signed jointly by Congress and MARAD, to recognize the “outstanding dedication to the AMVER system and support to world maritime safety” provided by Empire State VI during the activation. AMVER, or Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System, is a global reporting system used by search and rescue authorities to arrange assistance for people in distress at sea. The award consists of a blue award flag to be flown from the ship and the certificate of merit.
Empire State VI was activated to assist with the Hurricane Harvey response effort in Texas on September 1. Before the ship arrived in Texas, Hurricane Irma hit Florida and the ship’s mission was altered to assist in the Florida recovery. After approximately two weeks in Florida, Empire State was sent to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The three hurricanes caused an estimated $200 billion in damage and the deaths of more than 3,000 people. In each location, the Empire State VI provided power, housing, food and water to emergency relief workers. Responders were housed on the ship to free area hotel space for residents displaced by the storms.
During the nearly two-month activation, Empire State VI provided more than 9,000 meals and berthing for more than 5,000 emergency responders. The ship transported dozens of pallets of bottled water, food and other supplies for hurricane victims. The donated items resulted from a state-wide drive, led by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State University of New York.
During the activation, Empire State VI was crewed by professional mariners, who were hired by Tote, a private company contracted by the federal government to assist with recovery efforts.