AMO members from Maersk Peary and Pacific Tracker, ARC President and CEO Eric Ebeling among those honored by United Seamen's Service

The United Seamen's Service 53rd annual Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) Awards were presented to President and CEO of American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group Eric Ebeling, President of the International Longshoremen's Association Harold Daggett, and President of CMA-CGM North America and American President Lines Edward Aldridge.

The traditional silver statuette of Christopher Columbus - the first Admiral of the Ocean Sea - was accepted by the three honorees before a record crowd of nearly 950 people at a gala dinner and dance October 28, 2022 at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel. The recipients shared the evening with a group of American seafarers who were honored for acts of bravery at sea.

Chairman of the USS AOTOS Committee LTG Kenneth R. Wykle (USA retired) said: "We honor tonight three extraordinary Americans who have made a positive impact on America's maritime industry, which continues to offer up deserving AOTOS recipients and it is our honor to honor them."

In accepting the AOTOS Award, Eric Ebeling said: "The U.S.-flag fleet and Merchant Marine are dependent on smart and proper maritime legislation. Most of the nation's most effective policy planks and enhancements have come in the wake of the nation's wars.

"The good news: the U.S.-flag fleet and the American Merchant Marine have always delivered, and we continue to do so," he added.

"From the buildup, sustainment, surge and drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq, through the depths of COVID-19, and in Europe today in support of the U.S. and NATO mission supporting Ukraine, we deliver," Ebeling said. "The U.S.-flag commercial fleet in international trade remains a best value for reliable, cost-effective national defense sealift, providing an active modern fleet and thousands of good-paying jobs to merchant mariners that also support the reserve fleet in time of need and global sealift and logistics reach," he said.

"Carriers continue to invest and we are all committed to rebuilding the mariner pool. But we need a whole-of-government, industry and labor effort with an expanded focus," Ebeling said. "It is right and proper that maritime policy efforts in recent decades have prioritized national defense. Most recently, the reauthorization of the Maritime Security Program provided longer term stability for carriers investing in 30-year assets by extending the program through 2035."

Eric Ebeling was presented his AOTOS by his father, Ray, who was a 2004 AOTOS recipient.

The officers and crew of four American vessels were honored for heroism at sea. Among the vessels were the Maersk Peary and Pacific Tracker.

The U.S.-flagged tanker Maersk Peary was transiting the Aegean Sea north of Crete enroute to the Suez Canal when Rescue Center Piraeus requested urgent assistance finding a capsized vessel with about 80 people onboard.

The Maersk Peary was less than 14 miles from the downed vessel and entered a search grid established by the Greek Coast Guard. The ship's master, Everett M. Hatton, began maneuvering into the zone while his crew mobilized a rescue boat. An hour into the search, with searchlights scanning the waters, Captain Hatton spotted something in the water.

The third mate and bosun zeroed in on the object with binoculars as the 590-foot Maersk Peary cut its engine, launched the rescue boat loaded with blankets and proceeded toward the object, later identified as a boat fender, and found a survivor clinging to it.

The Chief Mate tried to communicate with the man, but the exhausted man was shivering and unable to speak. The man was pulled from the chilly waters and onto the rescue boat.

Within 15 minutes, the rescue boat linked up with the Greek Coast Guard vessel and transferred the survivor. Authorities rescued 62 of the estimated 80 people aboard the sinking boat. Sixteen bodies were recovered from the water. The migrants are believed to have sailed from Turkey.

The Maersk Peary crew is recognized for their professionalism and rapid response to an emergency situation.

The Pacific Tracker was sailing off the California coast when a call came from Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Center Alameda to locate the sailing vessel S/V Perplexity more than 500 nautical miles off the coast. The sailboat was carrying an injured sailor bleeding uncontrollably, too far from land to be reached by helicopter.

The ship began the search about 100 miles away. The vessel is a research/survey ship used in gathering telemetry for ballistic missile tests. The crew was looking to locate the Perplexity, which had been participating in a race, and rescue the sailor. Hours later, the six-meter-by-one-meter sailing vessel was in sight.

The crew plucked the sailor from the boat and stabilized the sailor's condition while the vessel was turned toward the California coast to facilitate a MEDEVAC transfer. While the Pacific Tracker was steaming to the shoreline, its crew was in contact with the U.S. Coast Guard and doctors at GWMMA. Mid-morning July 12, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter reached the ship and MEDEVACED the now stable sailor to a shoreside hospital.

The actions of the crew are in the highest dedication to maritime safety and rescue, and reflect great credit upon the Missile Defense Agency, the Maritime Administration and the U.S. maritime industry.

Proceeds from the AOTOS event benefit USS community services abroad for the U.S. Merchant Marine, seafarers of all nations, and U.S. government and military overseas. Edward Morgan is President and Roger Korner is Executive Director of USS. The AOTOS Coordinator is Barbara Spector Yeninas.