Seafarers remembered at Maritime Day ceremony

Marilyn Tennissen May 23, 2007, 12:00pm

The Rev. Sinclair Oubre, director of the Apostleship of the Sea ministry, hosted the 20th annual Maritime Day ceremony on May 22 at the Port of Port Arthur.

As barge and tug traffic slid past in the background, dozens gathered at the Port of Port Arthur to remember those that make their living, and sometimes lose their lives, serving at sea.

The 20th annual Maritime Memorial Service was held on May 22 as a time to commemorate mariners and fishermen who have died during the past year. This year the ceremony also honored the Texas Maritime Academy at Texas A&M University-Galveston.

Hosted by the Rev. Sinclair Oubre, director of the Apostleship of the Sea ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Beaumont and executive director of the Port Arthur International Seafarers Center, the memorial included songs, Scripture readings and the tossing of a floral wreath into the Port Arthur Ship Channel.

National Maritime Day was created by Congress in 1933. The lawmakers designated May 22 of each year to recognize the service of the U.S. Merchant Marines. The day is a special one in Port Arthur, a city whose economy is heavily impacted by the maritime industry and whose residents include thousands connected to the shipping and fishing business.

"During times of peace, the U.S. Merchant Marine helps ensure our economic security by keeping the oceans open to trade," President George W. Bush wrote in his National Maritime Day 2007 proclamation"During times of war, the Merchant Marine is the lifeline of our troops overseas. By carrying critical supplies, equipment and personnel, merchant mariners provide essential support to our Armed Forces and help advance the cause of freedom."

In attendance were dozens of retired seamen, widows of mariners, local graduates of TAMUG, Sabine Pilots and many volunteers who spend their time assisting not only the local sea community but the thousands of foreign crewmen that come through the Port of Port Arthur.

Rear Admiral Allen Worley, superintendent of Texas Maritime Academy at A&M University-Galveston, was one of the featured speakers.

The Texas Maritime Academy is one of five state-operated maritime academies in the country, and the only one on the Gulf Coast. There is also a federal program, but 70 percent of cadets graduate from the state schools.

Worley discussed the importance of maritime industry on U.S. economy, and the many food and products that Americans use every day that have arrived by ship.

He said studies indicate the maritime industry will experience tremendous growth in the decade, up by as much as 67 percent by 2015. There will be demand for academy graduates not only to keep up with growth, but to replace the retiring workforce.

Worley said the Texas Academy is working hard to increase the number of students enrolling and graduating.

"We have a long-range plan to increase by 50 percent by 2011 and a full 100 percent increase by 2015," Worley said.

He pointed out that cadets can earn $70,000 to $150,000 in first year as pilots, making it a good career choice. In Houston, the Academy is working the Houston Independent School District to develop a maritime industry track for high school students.

Worley said he hoped the same could be done in Port Arthur in the future.

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