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Ben Strong Highlights the Virtues of Amver for MarEx Readers

National Maritime Day provides perfect backdrop for this Year’s Amver Awards. “Amver is about saving lives,” says Strong.

What better way to celebrate National Maritime Day than paying tribute to the over 400 U.S. ships participating in the Amver system. That is just what happened at the National Press Club May, 21, 2009 in Washington, DC. On the heels of the National Maritime Day Seminar, sponsored by NAMMA and NAMEPA, industry and government leaders gathered to pay tribute to the hundreds of U.S. Amver award recipients.

I was joined by United States Coast Guard Vice Commandant Vivien Crea, Rear Admirals Brian Salerno and James Watson, USCG Chief of Search and Rescue Captain David McBride, and acting MARAD Administrator James Caponiti as we celebrated 51 years of global search and rescue.

While considerable attention is paid to ships that perform dramatic rescues, these ceremonies are important because they recognize Amver participants that may not have been called to action but are still ready to help a mariner in distress. I suppose Milton said it best, “He also serves who only stands (or sails) and waits.”

A total of 438 vessels, representing 81 companies, earned awards. Despite the compulsory nature of Amver for U.S. flagged ships, the award recipients were proud of their accomplishments.

These vessels do more than just stand and wait. In fact, 75 people were rescued by U.S. Amver participants in 2008 including 2 people rescued by a Maritime Administration ship, Golden Bear, sailing out of the California Maritime Academy. "We are so pleased of the actions of the students and crew aboard the Golden Bear," said James Caponiti, Acting Maritime Administrator. "Their dedication to safety at sea embodies the philosophy of Amver; ensuring no call for help goes unanswered."

Eagle Shipping International, Fairfield-Maxwell, Horizon Lines, LMS Ship Management, Horizon Lines, The United States Maritime Administration, OSG Ship Management, Pronav Ship Management, Roymar Ship Management, Teekay Shipping USA, and United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were on hand to receive their awards from United States Coast Guard Vice Commandant Vivien Crea. Susan Clark, of the Maritime Administration, opened the program with a beautiful rendition of the Mariners Hymn and we were able to debut a video showing the highlights of Amver over the last 50 years.

Beyond the awards, however, Amver is about saving lives. While the Amver awards ceremony was being held, Rescue Coordination Center Australia diverted an Amver vessel which saved two Americans from their sinking yacht. According to Philip Gaden, Senior Search and Rescue Specialist for Australia, “The two were rescued in atrocious weather conditions.”

Amver’s success can be measure in more than lives saved. Over 100 ships are enrolling in the Amver system each month. Every day there are almost 3,700 ships available to divert. Messages from ships roll into the Amver center at a staggering rate of over 7,000 per day.

In the days following the ceremony Amver vessels were dispatched to assist a training ship taking on water off New Zealand and to search for survivors or critical parts of the Air France flight that crashed off the coast of Brazil.

Amver continues to find ways to improve. A recent partnership with Pole Star allows Pole Star’s Fleet Management subscribers to automatically send position reports to Amver at no additional charge. The Amver system has designed a web based surface picture request form. This surface picture request form gives international rescue coordination centers a single source for Amver data during maritime emergencies. We launched a blog and built a virtual presence on the web to reach out to a new younger wave of shipping executives and keep our current client’s informed on our progress.

I sincerely thank the U.S. Amver participants, their crews and companies, and the sponsors of our awards ceremony. Without all of you none of it would have been possible. I also offer this challenge. Amver’s future is in your hands. As more ships enter the system, better coordination of maritime emergencies is possible. Better search and rescue coordination equals fewer ships out searching for people in distress. Less people out searching means more goods getting to port on time and that means money saved. Money saved should be music to owner’s ears. What’s music to my ears? More ships enrolled.

Benjamin M. Strong is the Director of Marketing for the United States Coast Guard’s Amver Maritime Relations. He can be contacted by any one of the following methods:>

Office: (212) 668-7762 / Fax: (212) 668-7684 / Mobile: (917) 545-6676
Email: benjamin.m.strong@uscg.mil / Web: www.amver.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Amver / Blog: http://www.amveruscg.blogspot.com