SCI To Honor Mariners With Distinguished Service Award

For the 20th annual River Bell Awards Luncheon, organizers wanted to do something a little different.

Having deemed this year the “Year of the Mariner,” Seamen’s Church Institute decided that rather than give its Distinguished Service Award to one person, it would give it to the industry’s mariners as a whole.

The awards luncheon is scheduled for 11 a.m. December 5 at the Paducah-McCracken County Convention and Expo Center.

To make the award more special, SCI set out on a search for one person to accept the award on behalf of all mariners. It invited select companies to nominate a mariner representative by submitting a short video segment, in which the candidate could address such topics as: Why did you and your fellow mariners choose a career on the river? How has it impacted your life? What do you like best and what do you find most challenging about your work? What are your hopes for the future?

The invited companies have a few days left to complete their submissions, but the roughly half dozen videos received so far have been impressive, said Nancy Van Epps, SCI director of communications.

“I was so moved by the video submissions of the candidates, especially when they discuss the importance of both the river and the families that they miss while working on the river,” she said. “River Bell is going to be really special this year! We have a lot of fun surprises planned!”

The idea for the unusual award presentation concept came from Mark Knoy, chairman of the SCI’s River Bell Committee and president and CEO of American Commercial Barge Line.

“The skill, sacrifice and hard work of the mariners is what makes everything in our industry possible,” Knoy said. “I wanted to commemorate their impact and express our gratitude in a meaningful way.”

The idea was immediately embraced by others involved with the luncheon.

“Honoring the exceptional contributions of the mariners we serve in a formal setting feels very appropriate, particularly in a year that has been so challenging for the industry,” said the Rev. David Rider, SCI’s president and executive director. “When ACBL President and CEO and River Bell Committee Chair Mark Knoy proposed the idea of presenting the Distinguished Service Award to our industry’s mariners, I was all for it.”

With all the challenges high water brought this year, this was an especially appropriate year to do so, said Darin Adrian, River Bell committee member and executive vice president of Marquette Transportation Company’s River Division.

“After 300-plus days of unprecedented high water and all of the pressures that go along with it, there couldn’t be a better year to recognize and thank our dedicated and hard-working mariners on the inland river system,” he said. “Congratulations to all of our inland river mariners, the foundation of our great industry.”

Knoy said the choice of the mariner to accept the award is going to be a difficult one.

“With the high quality of the nominees submitted, the selection panel has a challenging road ahead in choosing just one representative,” he said. “I am glad that I do not have to make that decision!”

Seamen’s Church has also announced recipients of its other awards to be presented at the luncheon. Delbert Wilkins of Illinois Marine Towing will receive the River Bell Award. James “Goat” Patterson of Osage Marine Services will receive the River Legend award.

To buy tickets or a sponsorship or to reserve a table at the River Bell Awards Luncheon, please visit SCI’s website at and click on “special events.”

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