AWO Letter - March 28, 2024

Coast Guard Authorization Bill Passes Committee, Advances to House Floor. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reported out H.R. 7659, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2024, by a bipartisan vote on March 20.
Included in the bill was language giving Coast Guard OCMIs flexibility to issue Certificates of Inspection for reduced engine room manning aboard ATBs with automated engine room systems. This language was added at AWO's urging, and is intended to clarify language included in the 2022 authorization act. Rep. Aaron Bean (R-FL) was instrumental in the effort to include the language in the measure acted on by the Committee.
An amendment offered by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) to allow foreign LNG vessels to operate in the domestic coastwise market was withdrawn.
Also included in H.R. 7659 was language supported by New York Reps. Tim Ryan (D) and Marc Molinaro (R) to prohibit the establishment of anchorages on the Hudson River. AWO strenuously opposed this language and will work with Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) to strike it from the bill during the course of the legislative process.
The Coast Guard bill now goes to the House floor and is expected to be considered sometime before the July 4 recess.
Please feel free to contact Craig Montesano, Vice President-Legislative Affairs, with any questions at or at 703-907-9612.
AWO Releases Statement on Baltimore Bridge Collapse. AWO has issued the following public statement, available on the AWO website and on AWO social media, regarding the events of March 26 in Baltimore: " AWO is deeply saddened by the catastrophic collapse of the Key Bridge in Baltimore. Our thoughts are with those who were on the bridge at the time of the collapse, and with the first responders working to rescue survivors. Consistent with standard port procedure for containerships navigating that segment of the Patapsco River, the foreign-flagged containership involved was navigating on its own at the time of the incident. As longtime partners to the Port of Baltimore in moving the nation's maritime commerce, the American tugboat, towboat and barge industry stands ready to assist with recovery efforts in any way we can."
ICYMI: Senator Wicker Debunks Jones Act Repeal Claims . In a recent letter to the Wall Street Journal , Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) emphasized that the Jones Act is key to America's maritime industry, economy, and skilled labor workforce, touting the 650,000 jobs supported by the law. Sen. Wicker, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also highlighted the Jones Act's importance to national security, concluding that "[r]epealing the Jones Act would narrow the already shrinking margin of American naval superiority."
Coast Guard-AWO Safety Partnership's National Quality Steering Committee Meets. On March 19, Coast Guard Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy RDML Wayne Arguin and AWO President & CEO Jennifer Carpenter co-chaired a meeting of the Coast Guard-AWO Safety Partnership's National Quality Steering Committee. AWO Executive Committee members in attendance had the opportunity for direct dialogue on a number of timely and important issues with key Coast Guard headquarters officials, including CAPT Amy Beach, Director of Inspections and Compliance, and personnel from the offices of Commercial Vessel Compliance and Design and Engineering Standards. The group discussed opportunities for the Coast Guard to improve communication, collaboration, and stakeholder engagement; the status of Subchapter M compliance; efforts to restore pre-Subchapter M engine room manning levels for ATBs with engine room automation; and necessary clarifications to the Coast Guard's policy guidance on Safer Seas Act requirements for surveillance and master key control systems.
Commandant Delivers State of the Coast Guard Address. In her State of the Coast Guard remarks on March 20, ADM Linda Fagan highlighted the Coast Guard's many operational missions and activities, including the agency's efforts to respond to emergencies and rescue people in distress, deter maritime migration and secure the U.S. maritime border, strengthen maritime governance in the Indo-Pacific region, and ensure an enduring presence in the Arctic to protect national security and natural resources. She also emphasized the importance of the Coast Guard's work to protect America's economic prosperity and national security by safeguarding the U.S. maritime transportation system, which contributes $5.4 trillion to the national economy every year and supports 30 million American jobs. When discussing the anticipated new waterways commerce cutters, ADM Fagan noted that the Coast Guard will struggle to meet cutter maintenance needs and projected that the agency's budget will only cover half of planned cutter maintenance projects next year.
ADM Fagan also discussed workforce challenges and described the Coast Guard's initiatives to transform its talent management by writing new personnel policies to make it easier to join and serve, and by investing in recruiting. She closed by acknowledging that harmful behaviors including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and bullying within the agency had undermined its values and impacted its readiness, and by highlighting the Coast Guard's efforts to improve service culture.
Reminder: Towing Vessel Inspection User Fees to Take Effect March 27. Per a final rule published in January , beginning March 27 Coast Guard option vessels will be charged an annual fee of $2,184 and TSMS option vessels will be charged an annual fee of $973. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Caitlyn Stewart .
MARAD Releases Mariner Workforce Strategic Plan. The U.S. Maritime Administration recently released its strategic plan to grow the mariner workforce through recruitment, training, and retention. The strategic plan, covering FY 2023-2027, lays out six goal areas and 36 strategies to meet those goals. As AWO continues advancing our Board-approved Workforce Action Plan, we will look for opportunities to collaborate with MARAD, including through AWO's appointment to MARAD's recently convened Maritime Workforce Working Group 2024.
AWO Distracted Operations Subcommittee Publishes Report. The AWO Distracted Operations Subcommittee (DISTOPS) was charged with taking a comprehensive look at management best practices that address both minor and significant distractions on tugs and barges. DISTOPS focused on three key areas to organize its work: the vessel wheelhouse, the deck, and communication between management and the vessel. The resulting report is designed to aid companies in the formation of policies that address and mitigate risk in these areas and promote a safe, distraction-free work environment, and includes:
1. Guidance for a Sterile Wheelhouse Policy Formation;
2. Best Practices for Preventing Distractions for New Mariners; and
3. Shoreside Best Practices for Communication to Vessels.
The Report is available in AWO's online Resource Library . Please reach out to Michael Breslin if you have any questions.
AWO Publishes Updated SSRP Manual. AWO's newly updated Safety and Statistics Reporting Program Manual will be available on the SSRP website on April 1, which is the date that the improved program will first be available for member use.
The Manual is designed to aid AWO members in understanding the criteria and entry process for data submitted to the SSRP, including definitions and recording guidance for AWO member sectors, crew hours, crew fatalities, recordable injuries, lost time injuries, falls overboard, spills, and severity levels for lost time incidents. The manual also provides technical guidance for entering current and historical safety statistics, correcting erroneous safety data, comparing member data, and viewing trends. The Manual may be reviewed by members prior to the SSRP update on April 1 by following this link .
Please direct any questions to .
Congress Appropriates Reduced Funding for 2024 Small Shipyard Grants. Funding for the Maritime Administration's Small Shipyard Grant Program was included in the recently passed Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. The total amount available for 2024 was set at $8.75 million, down from $20 million in 2023. This grant program supports small shipyards in implementing capital improvements and workforce training. The Maritime Administration has published a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the grants with a deadline of May 8, 2024.
PIDP Grants Open for Application. The Maritime Administration has issued the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the 2024 Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP). Thanks to Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding, $450 million is available in grants to improve the safety, efficiency, or reliability of the movement of goods through ports, as well as environmental and emissions mitigation measures. Private companies are eligible to apply jointly with a public entity, such as a port authority. The deadline for applications is May 10, 2024.
META Issues RFP for Study on Reducing Vessel GHG Emissions and Underwater Noise. The Maritime Administration's Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance (META) Program has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a comprehensive study to understand U.S. capabilities for design and construction of low/zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emission commercial vessels that also significantly reduce vessel-generated underwater noise. The goal of the study is to explore potential co-benefits in optimizing vessel energy efficiency. RFPs are due April 29.
SEC Adopts Rule Requiring GHG Disclosure. The Securities and Exchange Commission has finalized its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission disclosure rule . The new rule requires many publicly traded companies to disclose climate-related risks, expenditures, and GHG emissions. The final rule does not include reporting requirements for value chain (Scope 3) emissions, which were included in the proposed rule and which had the potential to impact AWO members by requiring affected companies to report emissions generated by transportation and distribution. The final rule also allows affected companies greater flexibility in determining which emissions are material to their reporting. The SEC set the disclosure requirements to go into effect for annual reports beginning in fiscal year 2025. However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a stay on the rule pending a lawsuit filed by two oil field servicing companies.
AWO PAC and Inside Elections. AWO PAC has partnered with Inside Elections for another special edition, featuring an overview of the presidential race, analysis of the Wisconsin Senate race, and more.
AWO PAC is the connected political action committee for The American Waterways Operators and serves as the trade association's separate segregated fund. As a trade association, AWO is prohibited from using general treasury funds or membership dues to make federal contributions. AWO is one of the most effective advocacy associations in Washington, DC, and relies on voluntary personal contributions to fund AWO PAC.

AWO PAC supports federal candidates who are champions of the U.S. tugboat, towboat and barge industry and who are leaders on issues important to our industry. AWO PAC is dedicated to protecting AWO members' investments in the safest, most environmentally responsible and most economical mode of freight transportation and safeguarding the integrity of the Jones Act to protect the bottom lines of our members. AWO PAC may solicit contributions from individuals of a member company once the member representative gives AWO written prior approval.

Jill Bessetti to Join AWO as Vice President – Southern Region. Jill Bessetti will join the AWO staff as our new Vice President – Southern Region in May. Jill currently serves as the Eighth Coast Guard District Towing Vessel Coordinator, a civilian position with responsibility for implementation of Subchapter M throughout the Coast Guard's largest district. She attained the rank of Commander during her active-duty career as a Marine Safety Officer, serving in Sector Delaware Bay, Sector New Orleans, Sector Mobile, and the Eighth District, as well as Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer for FEMA Region VI and on a special assignment to the Louisiana Governor's office during the COVID pandemic. Jill holds a B.S. in biology and Master's degrees in teaching and environmental management; in addition to her maritime expertise, she has more than 10 years of experience teaching adult learners in an online environment.
Jill will be wrapping up her Coast Guard responsibilities over the next six weeks and her first day as a member of the AWO staff will be Monday, May 6.
AWO Celebrates Wins as Washington Legislature Adjourns . On March 7, the Washington Legislature closed a two-year legislative term that saw multiple wins for the tugboat, towboat and barge industry. These victories include resolutions supporting Jones Act workers in both chambers, $800,000 in appropriations for a commercial pumpout in Puget Sound, and the kickoff of the maritime caucus. The legislature will return to Olympia in early January 2025, featuring a number of new faces due to key lawmakers retiring, including Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, Speaker Frank Chopp, and House Minority Leader JT Wilcox.
AWO Holds Illinois Barge-In. AWO hosted a state Barge-In in Springfield, IL, on March 13-14, meeting with key legislators to discuss a maritime exemption to the Illinois Paid Leave for All Workers Act as well as support for a pro-Jones Act resolution in the state. During the lobby day, legislators alerted AWO to a new clean fuel standard bill currently in the works. Many thanks to Angela Grett from Ingram Barge Company, Dan Saunders from ARTCO, Michael Meredith from Marquette Transportation Company, and Derek Egan from Northern Marine for joining our efforts.
These state barge-ins are much more effective with member support, so please join us when we come to your state!
Coast Guard Publishes Rule to Create Sector Maryland National Capital Safety Zone . U.S. Coast Guard Sector Maryland – National Capital has published a final rulemaking to create a safety zone based on port conditions in areas where vessels will be required to carry out specific actions. Under port condition WHISKEY all vessels must exercise due diligence in preparation for potential storm impacts. All oceangoing tank barges and their supporting tugs and all self-propelled oceangoing vessels over 500 gross tons (GT) must make plans to depart no later than setting of Port Condition Yankee unless authorized by the Captain of the Port (COTP). The safety zone covers all waters under Sector Maryland National Capital, and portions of the zone can be activated independently depending on conditions present.
AWO Partners with IMX. AWO is a supporting organization of IMX, to be held at the Music City Center in Nashville May 29-31, and AWO members are eligible for early registration pricing of $90 between March 28-April 15 (registration for other registrants will be $147 starting March 28). Use DISCOUNT CODE: SO90AWO March 28-April 15 by clicking here .
Share Your Best Recent Photos and Videos! From social media, to publications, to videos, to news coverage and beyond, AWO member photo and video contributions have been critical to helping us promote our essential industry. We are always in need of new images to keep our storytelling fresh and to capture the vibrancy of working on the waterways. If you have any recent media featuring your vessels, mariners, or operations, we encourage you to share it with us.
Submitted photos and videos will be eligible for use in AWO publications such as our Annual Report, on AWO social media, in AWO-produced videos, on our website, and in other settings. From time to time, media outlets may ask to use some of these images for their news coverage, and our coalition partners may ask to use them for our work on various campaigns, so we will occasionally share relevant photos with them. If you send us photos taken by third parties, we will assume that you have full permission to share them with us for our use.
If you would like to share your recent photos and videos for these purposes, or if you have any questions, please email us .