The UN's International Maritime Organization has declared 2010 to be the Year of the Seafarer.
That makes this year's observance of National Maritime Day, in which we pay tribute to our nation's seafarers, particularly memorable.
Now, it is not easy being a seafarer.
They face long periods away from home and family, and the familiar safety hazards that the sea has always presented. Sadly, they also still face the risk of being shot at by pirates.
Our country has long relied on the skills and expertise of people to build ships, sail them, and train the next generation to do the same. And, if we are to retain our status as a trading nation and a world military superpower, we will continue to rely on a strong merchant marine.
The challenge we face is that the merchant marine is not exactly a household term.
Many Americans aren’t familiar with the path that most consumer goods take from factory to store.
Many aren't familiar with how merchant mariners provide critical supplies to our troops serving in forward locations on foreign soil.
Or how, thanks to our skilled seamen, our country is capable of delivering humanitarian relief to people in need around the world quickly and efficiently.
So in echoing the sentiments of the IMO, the Obama Administration joins in highlighting the work of the seafarer.
You have our gratitude and respect for all that you do in the regular course of your service.
And for responding to the rescue of passengers from downed US Air Flight 1549 in the frigid Hudson River during last year's “Miracle on the Hudson.”
And for being available to pull survivors of the Deepwater Horizon from the Gulf of Mexico during the night of that fateful explosion and fire.
And for serving on more than 40 ships with over 1,000 of your colleagues after the deadly earthquakes in Haiti, to provide relief and hope to millions of people.
At today's ceremony, we proudly awarded those mariners who served in the Haitian effort, Operation Unified Relief, with the Merchant Marine Medal for Outstanding Achievement. In bringing relief and care to Haiti's survivors, they demonstrated the extraordinary compassion and devotion to
others that have traditionally brought admiration and honor to the men
and women who serve in our nation’s merchant marine.
Every day, the people of DOT's Maritime Administration recognize our mariners for their unique contribution to society. Today, we ask that the nation join us in recognizing that contribution.