Lawrence, Michel Honored At SCI’s Silver Bell Awards Dinner

On June 6, at a major awards ceremony attended by more than 700 guests from the shipping industry and associated companies, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) presented its prestigious Silver Bell Award to Jim Lawrence, chairman of Marine Money and founding partner of the MTI Network.

Each year, SCI confers the Silver Bell Award to an individual or group in recognition of outstanding leadership in the maritime community, significant commitment to merchant mariners, and engagement with issues facing the maritime industry. The event, held at Chelsea Piers in New York City, marked SCI’s 41st annual Silver Bell Awards Dinner.

A longtime friend and trustee of SCI, Lawrence began his publishing career with a 10-page newsletter devoted to credit reporting. He developed it into a successful monthly magazine focused on shipping and offshore finance. He also established Marine Money Week NY, the world’s premier annual ship finance event.

In his acceptance of the award, Lawrence spoke warmly of his colleagues past and present, and his commitment to and admiration for SCI. He urged those present to discuss the mission of SCI with one another, and think about new ways in which they could support the important work of the organization.

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The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Adm. Charles (Chuck) Michel of the U.S. Coast Guard. Michel is approaching the end of his career as vice commandant of the Coast Guard, and is in fact set to retire on July 1.

Douglas Stevenson, director of SCI’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights, presented the award to Michel, highlighting his impressive achievements, not least in becoming the first four-star vice commandant in Coast Guard history, and also the first career judge advocate in any of the Armed Forces to achieve four-star rank. Stevenson spoke of Michel’s “genuine concern and compassion for protecting seafarers’ rights,” his diplomatic skills, and his “deep-rooted sense of justice,” describing his role in developing international requirements to combat the problem of seafarer abandonment.

In his acceptance speech, Michel stated that the work that he has done for seafarers’ rights, particularly in collaboration with the Seamen’s Church Institute, is amongst his proudest accomplishments over the course of his four decades of government service with the Coast Guard.

Michel spoke of seafarers as a uniquely vulnerable class of workers, often invisible due to their very professionalism, but facing various challenges such as hazardous sea conditions, pirates, and abandonment, among others.

“It is part of the pinnacle of my career to be able to work with the Seamen’s Church Institute,” Michel said. “SCI is amongst the most selfless organizations I’ve ever worked for—they’ve dedicated their efforts over many years to the protection of seafarers. Thank you very much for providing me with a capstone to my career.”

Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby took the podium to pay tribute to the importance of the merchant marine fleet to national security and economic prosperity, reminding the audience that mariners of the U.S.-flag commercial fleet always rise to the challenge in peace and war, and in national and international emergencies. To illustrate this, he cited several examples including the waterfront evacuation of Manhattan in the hours following the 9/11 attack, and most recently, following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, mariners on both government and commercial vessels answering the call to deliver life-sustaining food, water, supplies and cargo to impacted citizens and communities.

SCI honored three companies, Crowley Maritime, TOTE, and Trailer Bridge Inc. with the Humanitarian Award for their relief efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. David Rider, president and executive director of SCI, presented the awards.

The Silver Bell Awards Dinner raises vital funds to support SCI’s important programs including advocacy, continuing education and training, and chaplaincy for merchant mariners who arrive at America’s ports and work on U.S. inland waterways. The event raised more than $800,000.