Statue Cruises LLC, the National Park Service concession ferry operator for the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, was presented with a prestigious Coast Guard maritime security award in New York City Wednesday.

The Rear Adm. Richard E. Bennis Award – named for the late Coast Guard officer who led the waterborne evacuation of lower Manhattan on 9/11 – recognizes excellence in security and the sharing of best practices with the maritime community. Statue Cruises is the first New York ferry operator to receive the biennial award.

Over the last two years nearly 9 million visitors landed at the Statue of Liberty and the historic immigration center on nearby Ellis Island. Statue Cruises, an affiliate of Hornblower Cruises and Events, has operated the ferry concession since 2008. During an April 25 presentation at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft presented Mike Burke, vice president and chief operating officer of Statue Cruises, with the award.

Criteria for evaluating award nominees include overall security activities, strategic partnerships that raise overall awareness with public and private agencies, and how the organization implements a culture of security among all employees. Coast Guard reviewers also look at how security measures are innovatively integrated into overall maritime operations to address any and all security concerns.

The Coast Guard cited other achievements by Statue Cruises in making the award:

  • Strong working relationships and coordination with multiple law enforcement entities at the city, state and federal levels, including the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, the State of New York and the National Park Service.
  • Integration of daily canine inspections to further enhance security prior to departures.
  • Security best practices for training and operational procedures.
  • Regular security drills and training with local, state and federal partners to reinforce response procedures.
  • Development of exercise scenarios that test proper protocols, readiness and effectiveness for any emergency situation.

“For the millions of visitors traveling on board our vessels to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, ensuring their safety and security as we welcome our guests is essential to our mission,” said Burke of Statue Cruises.  “We are truly honored to receive such a prestigious award from the U.S. Coast Guard, and to be recognized as a model for other maritime operators to promote a safe environment for employees and guests.”

“Statue Cruises has been our key partner in working with the United States Park Police to effectively carry our safety and security protocols,” said NPS monument Superintendent John Piltzecker. “We are pleased that they are the recipients of such a prestigious award from the United States Coast Guard, it is well deserved.”

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.