Secretary Chao Receives Admiral of the Ocean Sea Award

Secretary Chao with (L to R) SIU Exec. VP Augie Tellez, SIU President Michael Sacco and SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel

Published Nov 4, 2019 9:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Friday, the United Seamen's Service presented U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao with its Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) award at a banquet reception in Manhattan. 

“I am honored to have my work over the years recognized by such a distinguished organization and audience. I understand very well the sacrifices that merchant mariners experience. The men and women in this industry are heroes; I am proud of them and work hard to support them,” said Secretary Chao.

Chao has a long history of service to the American maritime industry. She worked on on transportation and trade issues at the White House in the Reagan administration, served as chair of the Federal Maritime Commission from 1988-89, then took the post of Deputy Maritime Administrator from 1988-89 in the George H.W. Bush administration. She also served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation from 1989-91 and director of the Peace Corps from 1991-92. She returned to government during the George W. Bush administration, serving as Secretary of Labor from 2001-2009 - an appointment which made her the first Asian-American woman to take up a cabinet-level position in U.S. history. 

In 2017, following a period in the private sector, Chao accepted the post of Secretary of Transportation. Among other highlights of her tenure thus far, Chao oversaw the successful effort to secure funding for the first hulls in the Maritime Administration's new training ship fleet. The new vessels' construction will replace aging training vessels at the state maritime academies. 

“Secretary Chao has been a staunch defender of the U. S. flag merchant marine fleet. She has defended the budget of the Maritime Administration, and many of its policies in the interagency process. Today, we congratulate Secretary Chao on receiving the Admiral of the Ocean Sea Award which is recognized as one of the most prestigious awards in the maritime industry," said Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby (USN, ret'd), who serves as U.S. Maritime Administrator under Chao. 

In an interview at the ceremony, Chao credited her parents for setting her on a path towards success. "I learned a lot about the maritime industry from my father, [who was a] sea captain at the age of 29. Because of his experience, the challenges and the hardships of merchant mariners and the life at sea. So I always try to look out for merchant mariners and also contribute to the industry," she told New China TV.