Tribute to “the mother of the tropical”

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Mary Kiernan died on May 10; she recently celebrated her 40th birthday with Tropical Shipping.

Tropical expedition Ships analyst Mary Kiernan, nicknamed “the mother of the tropics,” celebrated her 40th birthday with the company on March 18, 2021. She died last week from a postoperative infection, leaving colleagues in West Palm Beach and beyond in shock.

Kiernan was hired in 1981 to manage numerous administrative roles within the growing company, including switchboard operator, mail clerk, file room clerk and telex operator. Saltchuk Senior Vice President and General Manager Rick Murrell, former President and CEO of Tropical, remembers Kiernan during his early days with the company.

“Like many great members of the Tropical Team, my first memory of Mary was when she worked at the front desk,” he said. “She was a pleasant person, no frills, with an incredible sense of humor.”

In an essay she wrote to commemorate the March anniversary, she explained her rise in the business. Tropical had opened ports in Barbados and Trinidad when he was hired, which created a growing need to ensure accurate documentation to avoid customs hassles. She and three other newcomers to Tropical spent six months training to produce these materials.

“At that time, all the new open ports were given to us: Saint-Barthélemy, Anguilla, Saint-Kitts, Antigua, Saint-Martin,” she wrote.

After two years, she switched to import services. According to Kiernan, when it started, there was 5 percent northward trade and little to no inter-island trade.

“With the advent of refrigerated cargo from Puerto Plata, Belize and Honduras, and 807 inter-island cargoes, northward and inter-island trade has grown to 25 percent of the business.”

Jeff Fiser, current President and CEO of Tropical Shipping, met Kiernan in 1994 when he first went to work for Tropical.

“I was in a learning orientation on Tropical, and she was in charge of documentation for several islands,” Fiser said. “It involved managing all of the paperwork associated with a shipment – getting invoices and documentation from customers, evaluating the shipment and producing a bill of lading in a short period of time. This involved many contacts with the internal tropical teams as well as with the client. This involved gathering all the documents and getting on the ship before it left port. My first impression was that she was excellent at her job and led her department very well. The employees loved her, but respected her, and the customers loved her.

After 15 years in imports and seven working on the T-Link project, Kiernan moved to his dream job in 2004: ship planning.

“She was in the control center, which handles reservations and gathers all the cargo to make a sail,” Fiser explained. “His role was in the planning of the vessels, as well as the management of reservations and troubleshooting. She was very familiar with our T-Link system. She produced several reports that we used to run the business. “

“What impressed me the most about Mary was not just the actions she took in the course of her job, but all the ‘extras’ she took, as well as the humor and the ideas she provided, ”Murrell said. “One example is the ‘snippets; she scored on the daily ship condition reports. She had a contagious nature of inclusion and caring for others.

Kiernan, left, and Tropical CEO Jeff Fiser at the christening of the Tropic freedom.

‘Caring for and loving each other’

Kiernan was a cheerleader for various charities and tropical activities.

“You don’t work for these people,” Mary wrote of her mentors and friends. “You work with them. I got married to Tropical. I organized the first Thanksgiving lunch. I (helped) publish two cookbooks showcasing the cooking skills of our colleagues. I am honored to be the godmother of the Tropic freedom. I (helped) organize the first “Food for Families” campaign… and ran the first “Adopt a Family” campaign in Tropical. And I currently publish the “Afternoon Chuckle,” which began as a way to overcome the COVID pandemic, ”as well as the“ People of Tropical ”newsletter and the“ Daily Flash ”.

Kiernan also took in hundreds of kittens during his 40 years in Tropical and helped facilitate medical care, shelter and adoption.

“People like Mary made tropical culture what it is today,” Fiser said. “She was chosen to be the godmother of the Tropic freedom – one of our new ships. She was absolutely thrilled to be recognized for her contributions, but as humble as ever. You could see the pride in her eyes as well as her love for Tropical during the ceremony. It was a real sense of satisfaction for all of us to see it as this ceremony.

Kiernan, right, with Rick Murrell, senior vice president and general manager of Saltchuk, former president and CEO of Tropical Shipping, at one of the company’s famous Thanksgiving lunches she helped to organize.

“Mary was one of the catalysts to help create and nurture that ‘family feeling’,” echoed Murrell. “She encouraged Halloween costumes and office Halloween decorations. She encouraged members of the tropical multinational family to contribute their favorite recipes to a tropical cookbook. She encouraged the annual support of a disadvantaged family. When a major loss hit a member of the Tropical Team, Mary was working up front to provide support and assistance. Another organizational activity that helped cement that “family feeling” was “Bring a Day’s Workday” for a great lunch of a variety of foods. She taught reading in the library to those who could not read. She stayed in touch with the tropical diaspora long after they left the family and moved into a new life.

Murrell said he will fondly remember Kiernan.

“When my assistant, Denise, lost her father, the first sympathy card she received was from Mary, who was always caring and caring about others,” he said. “The message today is to respect what we all have, to support each other, to think of others and to work in harmony with our teams. You don’t know what tomorrow is made of. “

Kiernan said she was thinking about retiring but just couldn’t bring herself to leave Tropical.

“I have lots of outdoor activities that could keep me happy and busy after I retire, and I’ve been close to retirement now for about four years. But where could I find the excitement of a crisis all the time, the close friendships I have forged here, plus the sense of pride when I say, “I work at Tropical Shipping? It can’t get any better than that. Look at the people in your department, build a team, come together. What makes Control Center so successful is that we love each other. We can fight with each other but walk away as friends. We are taking over for each other. We care and we love each other. “


Two days after Kiernan’s death, Tropical Shipping’s “Daily Traffic Report & Vessel Utilization” was renamed “Mary’s Vessel Report” in honor of her loyal and loving service to Tropical over the years. The people of Saltchuk extends its sincere condolences to her husband, Bill, his family and the many friends and colleagues affected by his loss.



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