May 22, 2020
National Maritime Day is observed each year on May 22nd, the date that the American steamship Savannah sailed from the United States to England back in 1819 marking the first successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean using steam propulsion. This revolutionized ocean transportation by enabling increased schedule predictability since vessels were no longer
dependent exclusively on wind propulsion alone. On May 20, 1933, Congress declared May 22 as National Maritime Day to commemorate the men and women of the Merchant Marine who endure long and often
dangerous deployments moving commercial and military goods around the world that often places them in harms way in order to get vital goods delivered. The U.S. Merchant Marine suffered the highest percentage of losses of any branch of service during World War II since there was a concerted effort to shut down the Allied vital supply chain links required to support the war effort. There was a loss of 11,324 merchant mariners who gave their lives out of the nearly 250,000 members of the American Merchant Marine serving their country during the war representing a loss of over 4% in addition to the hundreds that were detained as prisoners of war and more than 800 ships that were sunk or damaged.
In 2006 the Maritime Administration joined forces with the American Association of Port Authorities, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Waterways Council Inc, the US Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other entities involved in the maritime industry to raise the awareness of National Maritime Day and of the maritime industry as a whole. On March 13, 2020, President Trump signed into law the “Merchant Mariners of World War II Gold Medal Act of 2020.” This resolution recognizes the vital contributions that merchant mariners made to the Allied victory in World War II. Later this year the leaders of Congress will present the Gold Medal to the American Merchant Marine Museum to recognize all the mariners who sailed during World War II.
As the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increased awareness and respect of the vital importance of keeping critical goods moving through global supply chains to reach those in need. As the maritime industry further evolved with the advent of containerization, goods movement today involves a large and complex network of intermodal stakeholders that not only work on the ships but also at the terminals, ports, railroads, trucking companies and warehouses to maintain the fluidity of goods moving through these supply chains. The physical movement of the goods is only one dimension of the supply chain with the second dimension being the efficient management of the significant amount of data surrounding these goods. Technology plays a vital role in providing the visibility and connectivity required to ensure the efficient transition between each of the intermodal stakeholders. I do not want to diminish
the recognition of the mariners on Maritime Day but I feel that we owe all of the individual stakeholders that have been deemed “essential services” in fighting this pandemic a huge shout out and debt of gratitude today.
Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to gather and hold a traditional National Maritime Day event in our community due to the Coronavirus. However, please join me and the Propeller Club in our nation’s largest
port gateway here in Los Angeles and Long Beach to recognize and thank our mariners as well as all of the related essential supply chain stakeholders for the vital support they play to our economy throughout the year but particularly for their bravery in keeping goods moving in our fight against this pandemic.