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Capt. Michael Watson, APA president, dies at 72

Aug 3, 2015 10:33 AM

'Strong advocate and steady voice' for pilots also served as IMPA president

The following is the text of two news releases from the American Pilots' Association:

(WASHINGTON) — It is with profound sadness that the officers, nationwide membership and staff of the American Pilots’ Association (APA) announce that Capt. Michael R. Watson, president of the APA, passed away unexpectedly at his home in Annapolis, Md., on July 23. He was 72 years old.

Watson was a maritime pilot and a national and international leader of the piloting profession for more than 45 years. He joined the Association of Maryland Pilots in 1970 and was the president of the group from 1982 to 2000.

Watson was first elected president of the APA in 2000 and was re-elected in 2004, 2008 and again in 2012. He was APA vice president for the North Atlantic Region from 1992-2000.

In 2002, Watson was elected a vice president of the International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA) and in 2006 became the first American in more than three decades to be elected IMPA president. He was re-elected as IMPA president in 2010 and completed his second term before stepping down in 2014.

Paul Kirchner, APA executive director-general counsel, said, “Capt. Watson was a true friend to pilots throughout the U.S. and the world. But he was more than a friend, he was a strong advocate and steady voice for the piloting profession. He worked tirelessly to find ways to enhance pilotage requirements and standards, as well as to advance the standing of pilots within the maritime industry. His strong hand on the rudder will be sorely missed by so many.”

As the leading figure in pilotage for the past decade and half, Watson worked collaboratively with Congress as well as with the Coast Guard, NOAA and the Army Corps of Engineers on legislation, policies and initiatives that not only enhanced pilotage, but also increased navigation safety and facilitated the efficient flow of maritime commerce. He also played a key role at the International Maritime Organization (IMO). As APA president, he was routinely a member of the U.S. delegation to IMO, where he served as an industry advisor to senior U.S. governmental officials. He also led numerous IMPA delegations to IMO. His efforts at IMO contributed substantially to the improvement of maritime safety, security and environmental protection around the globe.

Watson graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point in 1965. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He began his maritime career by serving on U.S. Military Sealift Command ships supplying U.S. troops in South Vietnam. In addition to his Maryland state pilot license, he held an unlimited tonnage oceans master credential and a Coast Guard first class pilot endorsement for the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries.

Watson was the recipient of many prominent awards including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commander’s Award for Public Service, Baltimore Port Leader of the Year, Outstanding Professional Achievement Award for the Merchant Marine Academy, Maryland Governor’s Citation, and the U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Merit.

Watson was born in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 13, 1943. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Geraldine, two daughters, Natalie and Alicia Watson, a son-in-law, Charles Walker, and a grandson, Alexander Watson.

The Watson family has not yet announced final arrangements for Watson’s funeral and memorial services.

Capt. Peter McIssac named acting president of APA

(WASHINGTON) — Capt. Peter McIsaac, vice president for the Pacific states, has been named acting president of the American Pilots’ Association (APA) following the July 23 passing of Capt. Michael R. Watson, APA president since 2000. McIsaac will serve out the remainder of Watson’s term of office, which expires Dec. 31, 2016.

“Captain Watson was a tremendous leader and advocate for our great profession — his passing was a tremendous loss to all of us,” said McIsaac. “I am honored to have been chosen to complete Captain Watson’s term.” McIsaac continued, “I want to assure all APA member pilots, pilots’ associations around the world, and our partners in government and industry, that the important work of the APA will continue uninterrupted. I will work with the APA officers and staff to vigorously represent the interests of pilots and advance compulsory pilotage standards.”

The maritime career of McIsaac began in 1977 in the tug boat industry on the Great Lakes. He later advanced to tug captain and senior port captain while working on vessels throughout southwest Alaska and the San Francisco Bay area. He joined the San Francisco Bar Pilots Association (SFBPA) in 1992. He was later elected president of the SFBPA, serving terms from 2000-2004, 2006- 2010, and 2012 to present.

McIsaac was elected APA vice president for the Pacific states in 2006. In this position he represents APA member pilots in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. He has also been active with the International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA), serving on APA delegations to a number of IMPA Congresses.

McIsaac, a native of Michigan, was educated at the University of Alaska. He and his wife, Virginia, currently reside in San Mateo, Calif. They have three sons.

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