Many Americans are not aware of the tugboat, towboat and barge industry’s important role in keeping our nation secure. The men and women who crew the industry's 4,000 towing vessels and 27,000 barges are the "eyes and ears" of our nation's maritime transportation system and an essential partner in the U.S. Coast Guard's mission to protect maritime homeland security. AWO works closely with the Coast Guard to enhance maritime security on the nation's coasts, inland waterways, the Great Lakes, and in ports and harbors throughout the country.
One of the industry’s proudest accomplishments came on one of the nation’s saddest days – September 11, 2001. On that terrible day, the maritime industry, the U.S. Coast Guard, and vessel owners worked together to evacuate more than 500,000 people from Manhattan, the largest maritime evacuation in history.
Immediately after the terrorist attacks, AWO recognized that the industry faced new challenges relating to maritime security. Building on our long track record of cooperation with government to improve marine safety and environmental protection, in November 2001, AWO convened a meeting of senior leaders from industry, the Coast Guard, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss security measures needed to protect industry assets and the nation's critical maritime infrastructure. As a result of that meeting, AWO developed a plan to address security risks associated with moving potentially hazardous cargoes by barge. In April 2002, seven months before Congress passed legislation mandating vessel security plans, AWO produced a model vessel security plan for member companies to enhance vessel security procedures. When the Maritime Transportation Security Act became law in November 2002, AWO worked with the Coast Guard to transform its plan into one of the first Alternative Security Programs approved by the Coast Guard under the new regulations.