The Department’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) ships T/S KENNEDY, T/S EMPIRE STATE and SS WRIGHT have served a unique role supporting Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in New York. As their relief mission ends, I’d like to recognize the 120 men and women who served for more than 40 days as crew on these ships.
On Saturday, I was on Staten Island, New York, along with representatives from FEMA and maritime labor unions, to award captains and crews aboard two of the ships with the U.S. Merchant Marine Medal for Outstanding Achievement. This medal recognizes their efforts to sail these vessels to New York and provide efficient, temporary afloat housing for Hurricane Sandy relief workers.
For six weeks, relief workers from all over the country, including many who had never been on a ship, stayed aboard. Galley crews made sure meals were ready starting at 5:30 a.m., so the relief workers could get an early start. And as these workers returned after long days ashore, crews worked to try to provide them at least some comforts, including internet access and even a few holiday decorations.
In all, the three MARAD ships provided more than 37,000 bed-nights and 72,000 meals for disaster relief workers from FEMA, the Red Cross, and other relief organizations. Because of this floating dormitory service, relief workers did not take up local hotel space needed for housing displaced families.
Ships from the National Defense Reserve Fleet, as well as trained crews, also saw action in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike. MARAD also activated three ships for relief operations in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake.
I’m proud of their work. The professionalism, care, compassion, and outstanding support exhibited by these mariners to thousands of emergency responders bring great honor and distinction to the U.S. merchant marine. Mariners are no strangers to being away from home and their families during holidays, and they told me in no uncertain terms that they would stay on the job for as long as they are needed.