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Port of Baltimore celebrates National Maritime Day

Cannon fire, singing, bell ringing and thunderous ship horn blasts aboard the NS Savannah marked the 2016 National Maritime Day at the port of Baltimore's Canton Marine Terminal Sunday.

The celebration on the deck of the world's first nuclear-powered merchant ship was noisy by design: officials wanted to draw attention to Baltimore's shipping industry and the service of the Merchant Marine.

"People stand at the harbor with their backs to the water, but they have no idea what's happening behind them," said Janet Caslow, of the Baltimore National Heritage Area Association.

More than 32 million tons of international cargo, valued at $51.1 billion, crossed the Port of Baltimore's marine terminals last year. The port generates nearly $3 billion in personal wages and salary, according to the Maryland Port Authority.

U.S. Maritime Administrator Paul "Chip" Jaenichen pointed out that nearly all of America's imports are brought in by ship.

"We are a maritime nation," Jaenichen said. "All you've got to do is take a look at our geography."

"Everything you see that you have in your house that wasn't made in the United States came by ship at one point or another," he added, "and a lot of it came right through the port of Baltimore."

During a ceremony on the ship's deck, Merchant Marines laid a wreath in the water off the starboard rail and observed a moment of silence for those mariners who have died in war.

A cannon blast, a ringing of the ship's bell and a hearty rendition of "Heave Ho! My Lads, Heave Ho!," the official song of the U.S. Maritime Service, by Merchant Marine veterans concluded the service.

The ship was named after the SS Savannah, the first ship to cross the Atlantic using both steam engines and sails. National Maritime Day commemorates that journey, from the U.S. to England, which took just under a month and began on May 22, 1816.

Gordon and Henry Davy, 9 and 5, respectively, of Frederick, attended the service and toured the 57-year-old NS Savannah with their parents.

"National Maritime Day is a time to reflect on the boating history in our country," Gordon said.

Henry said he liked "the buttons and switches, all kinds of things" in the ship's control room.

Their father, Tom, said he is interested in nuclear power and wanted to spend Sunday doing something unique to Baltimore.

"This is not something you have the opportunity to do very often," he said. "You can see other attractions any time."

The Pride of Baltimore II and the training ship Golden Bear, of the California Maritime Academy, were docked nearby.

Michael Mackenbach and Jonah Kubela, cadets on the Golden Bear, said their voyage from Vallejo, Calif., lasted a month and took them through the Panama Canal.

"We want to give people a new view of what goes on in the water," Mackenbach said.

"It's a big industry, when you think about it," Kubela added. "It's the backbone of shipping."

Representatives from the Pride, Sail Baltimore and other organizations handed out stickers and information pamphlets at tables under a tent on the dock.

"There's a rich history in the Chesapeake region of maritime industry that people can take advantage of in their backyard," said Marc Kantrowitz, director of operations for Sail Baltimore.

Gina Keil, of Glen Burnie, brought her two children, Xavier, 8, and Sophia, 6, to the terminal for the day. They were joined by Keil's sister, Amie Carter, and their mother, Monique Carter, who is visiting her daughters and grandchildren from Long Island.

"When they did the ceremony, that was the best part," Xavier said.

Sophia preferred the Pride of Baltimore II — or as she called it, "the pirate ship."

"I liked how they were climbing up the ropes and trying to pull down the sail," she said.

Amie Carter, a graduate of the State University of New York Maritime College, liked showing her niece and nephew the shipyards.

"It's not an industry — even though it supports our everyday lives — that you get to see a lot," she said. "Where'd we get these bananas? Where is my shirt from? There's a strong maritime history in Baltimore and I want them to learn more about it."

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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