(a) General Authority.—
The Secretary of Transportation may award decorations and medals of appropriate design (including ribbons, ribbon bars, emblems, rosettes, miniature facsimiles, plaques, citations, or other suitable devices or insignia) for individual acts or service in the merchant marine of the United States. The design may be similar to the design of a decoration or medal authorized for members of the armed forces for similar acts or service.
(b) Specific Authority.—The Secretary may award—
a Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal to an individual for outstanding acts, conduct, or valor beyond the line of duty;
a Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal to an individual for meritorious acts, conduct, or valor in the line of duty, but not of the outstanding character that would warrant the award of the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal;
a decoration or medal to an individual for service during a war, national emergency proclaimed by the President or Congress, or operations by the armed forces outside the continental United States under conditions of danger to life and property; and