While each day year-round we celebrate the vital contributions maritime commerce makes to our economic prosperity, one month and one day in particular are set aside annually for specific recognition of this crucial industry segment.
Each May 22 since 1933 has been observed as National Maritime Day, and the entire month is federally designated as National Maritime Month.
At Port Manatee, as at seaports throughout the United States, a ceremony was held May 22 to commemorate National Maritime Day.
As has been the case for the past decade and a half, the Port Manatee Propeller Club — a not-for-profit service organization made up of representatives of our port’s stakeholders — led ceremonies marking the special day.
Joined by a brass quartet and a color guard comprising students from Palmetto High School, port leaders gathered at the Port Manatee cruise terminal building to hear messages from Manatee County Port Authority Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh and Cmdr. Anthony R. Migliorini, head of the prevention department of U.S. Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg.
Then everyone headed outside for the ceremonial placing in waters off one of Port Manatee’s ship berths of a wreath honoring mariners who have perished at sea.
Baugh noted that Port Manatee generates more than $2.3 billion for our region’s economy and directly and indirectly supports more than 24,000 jobs while handling all-time-high cargo volumes.
“The United States has always been and will always be a great maritime nation,” Baugh said. “The maritime industry is essential for our country, as more than 90 percent of the world’s trade is carried by sea.”
Migliorini was equally enthusiastic, saying, “Maritime Day is a very special day for the U.S. Coast Guard. Our job is every day to ensure that the merchant mariners operating on our rivers and oceans are as safe and secure as they can possibly be. We are a maritime nation, and the maritime transportation system is vital to our future as a country.”
Indeed, according to the American Association of Port Authorities, seaport cargo activity throughout the United States supports employment of more than 23 million Americans and generates nearly $4.6 trillion for the nation’s economy — accounting for more than one-fourth of all U.S. economic activity.
At the same time as Port Manatee was marking May 22 with its ceremony, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration held its annual national function, with U.S. Maritime Administrator Mark H. Buzby calling the maritime industry “an American job engine.” He added: “We can and must strengthen our maritime industry now if we are to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare. America’s strength rises and falls with the health of the maritime community. We must ensure that we are ready to meet the challenges ahead.”
National Maritime Day was established by Congress to commemorate the voyage of the American steamship Savannah from the United States to England, marking the first successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean with steam propulsion. Since its inception, National Maritime Day has become a time-honored tradition that recognizes one of our country’s most important industries.
At Port Manatee, we never lose sight of the critical role the maritime industry plays in the socioeconomic well-being of our region and our nation as we strive to continue to increase the favorable impacts of activity moving across our docks.
Carlos Buqueras is the executive director at Port Manatee and can be reached at email@example.com.