The U.S. Coast Guard has chosen former American Bureau of Shipping Chairman Robert D. Somerville as a recipient of its Distinguished Public Service Award. Aside from the USCG Gold and Silver Life-Saving Medals, this is the highest public recognition by the commandant of the Coast Guard.
Somerville is a native of Houlton.
This award recognizes extraordinary heroism in advancing the Coast Guard’s mission and exceptional coordination in matters pertaining to the Coast Guard’s responsibilities. The award also acknowledges personal contributions that have had direct bearing on accomplishing the Coast Guard’s responsibilities.
The award celebrates Somerville’s lifelong dedication to improving the safety of life at sea, as well as his environmental stewardship. During his 42-year tenure with ABS, Somerville improved the international standards for ship and offshore structure design, construction and inspection. His leadership was pivotal to the introduction of the International Association of Class Societies’ Transfer of Class Agreement, which prevents ships from changing classification to avoid compliance with safety specifications.
Somerville also spearheaded the development of the ABS Rules for Building and Classing Naval Vessels, which are used by military sea services as a guideline for safety and design best practices for newly constructed military ships.
Somerville’s commitment has extended into academia as well. As ABS Chairman, he was instrumental in increasing the amount of academic support the organization offers to students pursuing maritime careers. He created additional ABS maritime scholarships and increased funding for a number of colleges and universities, including the Maine Maritime Academy, where Somerville serves as the Vice Chairman on the Board of Trustees.
The DPSA is one of several USCG awards that recognize private citizens, groups or organizations that help carry out its mission. Somerville accepted another such award in 2012 on behalf of ABS granted in recognition of ABS’ strong relationship with the USCG.