40th Annual Silver Bell Awards Dinner
On June 8, 2017 at a major awards ceremony, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) presented the prestigious Silver Bell Award to Dr. James S.C. Chao of Foremost Group. The Honorable Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, introduced the award for her father. 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 fortieth annual Silver Bell Awards Dinner.
Dr. James S.C. Chao, who features in the International Maritime Hall of Fame at the United Nations, is Chairman of Foremost Group shipping company. He received the Silver Bell Award in honor of his commitment to education, as well as his long and abiding dedication to quality ship owning, crew welfare, and his significant charitable services. Dr. Chao is a frequent lecturer worldwide on international shipping and has led the global shipping industry in incorporating environmentally-friendly designs and technology in his company’s fleet of new ships which are among some of the world’s largest bulk carriers
The Honorable Elaine L. Chao is the 18th U.S. Secretary of Transportation, and comes to the Department with extensive experience in the transportation sector. She began her career in public service working on transportation and trade issues at the White House, then served as Deputy Maritime Administrator, Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, and Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It is therefore fitting that Secretary Chao presented the Silver Bell Award to her father, who has dedicated his life to the maritime industry.
In her introductory remarks, Secretary Chao spoke of her father’s early involvement in the maritime. Born in a small Shanghai village, he became one of the youngest ocean-going sea captains of his time at the age of 29. In 1958, he shattered all previous records in Taiwan by achieving the highest score ever achieved on the national Master Mariner Examination, winning a scholarship to America soon after which separated him from his wife and young children for three years. Starting the Foremost Maritime Corporation (which would become the Foremost Group) in 1964, he founded the company on his three personal values: “impeccable service, complete reliability, and unwavering integrity”. Secretary Chao described Dr. Chao’s lifelong commitment to education, saying that the Silver Bell Award “reflects a career built upon excellence, service to others, and a strong faith in the Almighty.” Accepting the award, Dr. Chao was accompanied to the podium by his daughter Angela, Deputy Chairman of Foremost Group. Dr. Chao thanked those present for the honor of his award, and Angela expanded on her father’s commitment to seafarers and his emphasis on the importance of the crews working for his shipping company. Dr. Chao used to visit every single ship he owned, eating, sleeping, and living on board to get to know the crew and experience their working conditions first-hand.
Next, the Distinguished Service Award was awarded to Mr. Richard (Rick) Calhoun of Cargill, in recognition of his leadership in the industry and commitment to improving the infrastructure for inland waterway transportation. SCI trustee and President and CEO of American Commercial Barge Line, Mr. Mark Knoy presented the award to Rick, highlighting his loyalty, dedication and selflessness as just three of the reasons why Rick is so deserving of the Distinguished Service Award. In his acceptance speech, Rick spoke of the significant step he is taking in retiring from Cargill after many years.
Finally, SCI honored Mr. Joseph Cox (ret. Chamber of Shipping of America) with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to the maritime industry and commitment to seafarer welfare over the course of his career. SCI Trustee and President of MTI Network, Jim Lawrence introduced Mr. Cox, highlighting his “impassioned, thoughtful, and effective leadership” of the Chamber of Shipping of America, the U.S. shipping industry. Jim also spoke of Mr. Cox’s humility and generosity. In accepting the award, Joe gave credit to the work of Doug Stevenson and ADM Charles Michel of USCG for their work on the legislation protecting abandoned seafarers which was adopted last year as an amendment to the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. He also cited the book of Matthew, Chapter 25, when speaking of SCI’s valuable work taking care of the stranger – welcoming those seafarers who are strangers to our land.
The Silver Bell Awards Dinner was preceded by the traditional “Blessing of the Fleet”, attended by vessels from the USCG, Kirby Corporation, McAllister Towing & Transportation, Moran Towing Corporation, Bouchard Transportation, Dann Marine, and one of the Sandy Hook Pilot Boats.
The event 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. Overall the Silver Bell Awards Dinner raised close to $800,000.
More information on other SCI events can be found at: seamenschurch.org/special-events