41st Annual Silver Bell Awards Dinner

Jun 10, 2018

On June 6, 2018 at a major awards ceremony attended by over 700 guests from the shipping industry and associated companies, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) presented its prestigious Silver Bell Award to Mr. Jim Lawrence, Chairman of Marine Money & Founding Partner of the MTI Network.

Each year, SCI confers the Silver Bell Award to an individual or group in recognition of outstanding leadership in the maritime community, significant commitment to merchant mariners, and engagement with issues facing the maritime industry. The event, held at Chelsea Piers in New York City, marked SCI’s forty-first annual Silver Bell Awards Dinner.

Jim Lawrence was a hugely popular choice as the recipient of the Silver Bell Award. A long-time friend and trustee of SCI, he is well-known in the industry. In his introductory remarks, Jack Noonan (President of Binnacle Maritime), spoke of Jim’s foresight in taking a 10-page newsletter devoted to credit reporting, developing it into Marine Money as we know it today, and establishing Marine Money Week NY, the world’s premier ship finance event which is attended annually by more than 1,000 investors, ship owners, lenders, and advisors. Jack also spoke of Jim’s role as founding partner of the MTI Network, the leading incident response company for the shipping, energy, offshore and transportation industries.

Jim’s high standing in both the shipping and finance worlds, Noonan said, is not solely the result of his “vision, business acumen, and tireless work ethic” but also of his character – full of enthusiasm and optimism. “He has the rare quality of being sincerely happier with other people’s good fortune than his own, always putting other people’s interests first.” Speaking of Jim’s involvement with the Connecticut Maritime Association’s annual conference, Jack made clear Jim’s commitment to CMA’s mission: to promote and support maritime-related education through financial assistance, internships, events and activities. “Jim is generous in all ways”, he said, “- with his time, his expertise, and his energy… He has long been a mentor and role model for up and coming generations.”

In his acceptance of the award, Jim spoke warmly of his colleagues past and present, and his commitment to and admiration for the Seamen’s Church Institute. He urged those present to discuss the mission of SCI with one another, and think about new ways in which they could support the important work of the organization.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to ADM Charles (Chuck) Michel of the United States Coast Guard. ADM Michel is approaching the end of his illustrious career as Vice Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, and is in fact set to retire next month on July 1st, 2018.

Douglas Stevenson, Esq., the Director of SCI’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights, presented the award to ADM Michel, highlighting his impressive achievements, not least in becoming the first four-star Vice Commandant in Coast Guard history, and also the first career judge advocate in any of the Armed Forces to achieve four-star rank. Doug spoke of ADM Michel’s “genuine concern and compassion for protecting seafarers’ rights”, his diplomatic skills, and his “deep-rooted sense of justice”, describing Chuck’s role in developing international requirements to combat the problem of seafarer abandonment. Additionally, Doug described how Chuck helped create legislation establishing a fund, paid for by shipowners convicted of pollution crimes, that protects abandoned seafarers’ wages, living expenses, and repatriation.

In his acceptance speech, ADM Michel stated that the work that he has done for seafarers’ rights, particularly in collaboration with the Seamen’s Church Institute, is amongst his proudest accomplishments over the course of his four decades of government service with the Coast Guard.

ADM Michel spoke of seafarers are a uniquely vulnerable class of workers, often invisible due to their very professionalism, but facing various challenges such as hazardous sea conditions, pirates, and abandonment among others. He stated, “It is part of the pinnacle of my career to be able to work with the Seamen’s Church Institute. SCI is amongst the most selfless organizations I’ve ever worked for –they’ve dedicated their efforts over many years to the protection of seafarers. Thank you very much for providing me with a capstone to my career.”

Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administrator ADM Mark Buzby took the podium to pay tribute to the importance of the merchant marine fleet to our national security and economic prosperity, reminding the audience that mariners of the U.S.-flag commercial fleet always rise to the challenge in peace and war, and in national and international emergencies. To illustrate this, he cited several examples including among others the waterfront evacuation of NYC in the hours following the 9/11 attack, and most recently, following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, mariners on both government and commercial vessels answering the call to deliver life-sustaining food, water, supplies and cargo to impacted citizens and communities.

SCI honored three companies, Crowley Maritime, TOTE, and Trailer Bridge Inc. with the Humanitarian Award for their relief efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. David Rider, President and Executive Director of SCI, presented the awards.

Two hours after the US Coast Guard reopened San Juan Harbor, Jones Act shipping line, Crowley Maritime, began discharging supplies off barges with commercial and government relief. Since then, Crowley has operated almost 24/7 serving Puerto Rico. Transporting more than 100,000 TEUs of relief and recovery supplies, Crowley has delivered more than 40,000 poles to restore the power supply and more than 7,000 transformers for the electrical grid, plus power restoration equipment, oversized drill, bridge rebuilding supplies, fuel trucks and 177,000 barrels of Jet A-1 Fuel. Tom Crowley gave remarks on behalf of Crowley Maritime, highlighting the part played by many other companies in the relief efforts, which he described as “a story not told”. José Nazario spoke movingly about the devastation caused to Puerto Rico, but also the commitment of his fellow Crowley employees, 96% of whom arrived at work in the day following the hurricane, ready to help with the relief efforts.

One day after the port re-opened after the hurricane, TOTE offloaded two ships carrying more than 2,000 containers with relief cargo. Since then, TOTE has delivered more than 59,000 containers and participated in and hosted more than 25 community giving events which have supported more than 19,500 individuals from some of the hardest hit areas. Thus far, TOTE has delivered more than 20 million gallons of water; 1.5 million bags of ice; 8,000 generators; 255 utility trucks and equipment and more than 60,000 water filters in cooperation with Operation Agua. As he accepted TOTE’s award, Eduardo Pagan spoke of the U.S. maritime industry’s commitment to caring for and supporting the island through both relief efforts and into the rebuilding phase, mentioning many organizations who had cooperated. He also spoke of how the TOTE team worked around the clock, not just for the island communities generally but also ensuring that their employees were cared for in whatever way necessary.

Trailer Bridge began filling containers with relief supplies to send to Puerto Rico to help its employees, friends, families and neighbors as Hurricane Maria’s impending landfall was making news. To date, the company has spent more than $1 million on water, food, generators and other supplies and has worked to keep containers of relief and recovery supplies flowing working alongside government agencies, contractors and humanitarian organizations. Accepting the award on behalf of Trailer Bridge, Indie Bollman spoke of the family ethos of the company, thanking the company’s CEO Mitch who preemptively took the decision to fill containers with aid supplies when advance weather reports started to arrive.

Bollman echoed the words of the other award recipients in acknowledging what a team endeavor the relief and recovery efforts were, and praising the people of Puerto Rico for their strength and heart.

The Silver Bell Awards Dinner was preceded by the traditional “Blessing of the Fleet”, attended by vessels from Bouchard Transportation, Dann Marine, the Fire Department of New York (Marine Company 1), McAllister Towing & Transportation, Moran Towing Corporation, the New York Harbor School, Reinauer, one of the Sandy Hook Pilot Boats, and the US Coast Guard.

The Silver Bell Awards Dinner raises vital funds to support SCI’s important programs including advocacy, continuing education and training, and chaplaincy for merchant mariners who arrive at America’s ports and work on U.S. inland waterways. Overall the event raised just under $820,000.

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