The National Maritime Historical Society recently held its annual awards dinner at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Among those honored with a Distinguished Service Award for contributions to the preservation of America's maritime legacy was Chesapeake Shipbuilding and American Cruise Lines owner Charles A. Robertson.

Also honored were Chesapeake Bay seafood restaurant owner, Steve Phillips, and Enterprise rental car heir Andrew Taylor.

Robertson is best known to WorkBoat readers as the builder of the Baltimore-based Vane Brothers' Sassafras-class tugs at his Salisbury, Md. shipyard. In a video shown at the awards dinner, shipyard president, Tony Severn praised Roberson's remarkable eye and hands-on leadership at the yard, which he visits frequently.

The last time I visited Chesapeake Shipbuilding, Robertson was eager to get out of the conference room and walk through a nearly complete cruise ship and a set of three tugs in varying states of completion. He stopped and greeted many employees by name and was genuinely proud of bringing good-paying skilled jobs to Maryland's struggling eastern shore.

Robertson's American Cruise Lines pioneered small ship cruising on U.S. waterways. Many of the tours have an historical theme celebrating the Mississippi River of Mark Twain and the Pacific Northwest of Lewis and Clark. Another venture, Pearl Seas Cruises will begin cultural trips to Cuba beginning next spring.

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