May 22 ------ On Friday, seaports across America will celebrate the contributions of the maritime industry by commemorating National Maritime Day. The American Association of Port Authorities has called on vessels moored at all American ports to sound their horns at 1200 hours local time Friday. This "Sound Off for National Maritime Day" event is focused on the COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery effort, and it recognizes the sacrifices made by seafarers and port workers in slowing the spread while ensuring a steady flow of commerce. “While taking all necessary precautions against spreading the virus themselves, our maritime workforce continues to deliver vital goods and services, ship exports, and connect farmers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers to the global marketplace," said AAPA president and CEO Chris Connor.
At the Port of Galveston, vessels all along the waterfront have been asked to participate in the "sound off" event at noon. "Now more than ever, we see how critical the maritime industry is to the U.S., state and local economies," said Galveston Wharves director and CEO Rodger Rees. "Please join me in recognizing the dedication, sacrifice and professionalism of the maritime industry workforce in their efforts to minimize the spread of coronavirus while safeguarding a steady flow of goods and services." At the port of Norfolk, Virginia, the Virginia Pilot Association and the Norfolk Propeller Club will hold a wreath-laying ceremony that will be livestreamed at 1600 hours. McAllister Towing and Moran Towing will provide a water salute. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao will be participating, according to local media, along with Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Maritime Administrator Rear Adm. Mark "Buzz" Buzby (USN, ret'd) and the master of the hospital ship USNS Comfort, Capt. Andrew Lindey.
In a video message released Thursday, Chao sent a public thank you to port workers for their efforts to keep the nation running in challenging times. "Thanks to the dedicated professionals and maritime labor partners who keep our ports open, cargoes moving and America's economy functional. Without you, our economy would come to a standstill, because more than 70 percent of U.S. international trade (by weight) moves by water," said Chao. "Ports and longshoremen have been expediting essential cargo, and providing the medical community with exclusive real time information on the status of vessels carrying COVID-related supplies."
The U.S. Maritime Administration traditionally holds a ceremony at its headquarters to mark National Maritime Day. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will be held virtually and livestreamed on Youtube. The theme for the celebration - “Resilient Sealift for a Resilient Nation”- is intended to reflect the industry’s support for the nation during the COVID-19 challenge. "While we may not be able to join in person, we can honor our nation’s maritime heritage, weather this current storm together, and commit ourselves to an even stronger future for America’s maritime industry," MARAD noted.