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Plimsolls awarded to legislative staffer, towing firm, immersion suit

The 2015 Plimsoll Award winners are former congressional staffer John Cullather, Bouchard Transportation Co. and the Stearns Thermashield 24+ immersion suit. Attending the ceremony were, from left, Cullather, Bouchard Transportation’s Kevin Donohue and Patrick Hannafey, Professional Mariner Editor Dom Yanchunas and Tyler Winthers of Stearns.

Brian Gauvin

The editors of Professional Mariner have presented the 2015 Plimsoll Awards for Outstanding Service to a former congressional staff member specializing in maritime affairs, to a towing operator that donated a simulator to an academy, and to a company that developed a more effective immersion suit.

John Cullather, longtime legislative staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives, was selected as a Plimsoll winner for outstanding service by an individual for his critical role in crafting virtually all of the major marine safety laws of recent times. Cullather was staff director of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Marine Transportation from 1995 to 2010. In that capacity, he drafted legislation including the Marine Transportation Security Act of 2002, Marine Pollution Prevention Act of 2008 and many Coast Guard Authorization Acts, plus vessel inspection, manning and licensing laws.

Before that, Cullather served for 18 years on the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries staff. He had a hand in formulating parts of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and other maritime transportation and Coast Guard laws.

“John’s involvement was special in that he did not only do his job, but had (and has) a passion for making vessels safer,” one nomination stated. “Without John, much of the legislation we take for granted would not have developed with the clarity that it has.”

The Plimsoll Awards were presented March 24 at the Connecticut Maritime Association’s Shipping 2015 Conference in Stamford, Conn. 

Bouchard Transportation Co. received the award for outstanding service by an organization. In its mission statement, Bouchard sets a high safety standard of zero injuries and zero incidents impacting the environment. In support of that goal, President and Chief Executive Morton S. Bouchard III states, “You cannot be safe unless you train.” For the benefit of not only Bouchard but also the entire industry, in 2014 the company funded a new tug-and-barge simulation center at the State University of New York Maritime College.

The facility includes state-of-the-art Kongsberg Polaris Bridge technology with advanced consoles and hydrodynamic models to provide specialized training for tugboats, barges and articulated tug-barges.

“Training in this state-of-the-art center ensures that students at the college, and professional mariners alike, are well educated and trained in a controlled environment,” the Maritime College said in the facility’s opening announcement last year. “The center creates new opportunities and better prepares future and current professionals for successful careers in the maritime industry.” 

Earning the Plimsoll Award for innovation this year is the Stearns Thermashield 24+ immersion suit. While normal immersion suits can receive U.S. Coast Guard certification if they protect the wearer for six hours in cold water, the new Stearns suit has been proved to be effective for over 24 hours. It includes a novel circulatory system that captures exhaled breath and moves it around the suit to provide warmth to the extremities. 

Coleman Co.’s Stearns Thermashield 24+ features removable gloves and integrated hard-sole boots, which offer the mariner more time to work to save the vessel in distress.

One licensed captain in Alaska stated that Thermashield 24+ is “an advancement to safety equipment similar to what GPS was to Loran in navigation. This suit sets the standard so high that our existing survival suit technology has become obsolete.”

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