Honoring merchant mariners on National Maritime Day

(FAIRFAX, Va.) — The International Propeller Club on Monday celebrated National Maritime Day, a United States holiday created to recognize the maritime industry. It is observed each year on May 22, the date in 1819 that the American steamship Savannah set sail from Savannah, Ga., on the first transoceanic voyage under steam power. The holiday was created by Congress on May 20, 1933.

Our maritime industry, and especially the U.S. merchant marine, is critical to America’s economy and national defense. The U.S. merchant marine is a vital part of the domestic maritime industry and is recognized as “the fourth arm of national defense.” Ever since the American Revolution, mariners have protected the nation and engaged in commerce in and out of the navigable waters of the United States

During Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2002-10), U.S.-flag commercial vessels, including ships drawn from the domestic trades, transported 63 percent of all military cargo moved to Afghanistan and Iraq. Equally important, the domestic fleet also provided half of the mariners needed to crew U.S. government-owned sealift vessels activated from reserve status. Those vessels carried an additional 35 percent of the total cargo delivered to the war zone.

In World War II, nearly 250,000 civilian merchant mariners served as part of the U.S. military, transporting supplies and personnel. Between 1939 and 1945, 9,521 merchant mariners lost their lives, a per capita casualty rate greater than that of any branch of the U.S. armed forces.

– International Propeller Club

By Rich Miller