AWO Letter - May 22, 2024

House Clears Coast Guard Authorization Bill. On May 14, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 7659, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2024, by a vote of 376-16. No amendments were offered or considered during floor debate. The House-passed bill includes language directing the Coast Guard to certificate ATBs with automated engine room systems, sponsored by Rep. Aaron Bean (R-FL). 
Now that H.R. 7659 has been sent to the Senate, discussions on a bicameral agreement on a Coast Guard bill will commence. AWO's strategy will focus on working with supporters throughout the negotiation process to secure enactment of several remaining industry priorities, chief among them addressing the undefined term "harassment" in the 2022 Safer Seas Act.
Don't Regulate by Policy on Surveillance Requirements, AWO Tells Coast Guard. On May 10, AWO sent a letter to the Coast Guard expressing concerns about the agency's policy guidance implementing the surveillance requirements of the Safer Seas Act (46 U.S.C. §4901). AWO told the Coast Guard that the requirement in CG-CVC Policy Letter 23-05 that "video and audio recordings must be continuous and without interruption" is an inappropriate, arbitrary, and extremely onerous expansion of the law. The continuous recording requirement does not derive from the plain language of the statute and imposes significant additional costs and other burdens on impacted vessel operators, and the regulated community was unable to respond as the Coast Guard did not provide public notice and comment through a rulemaking process. AWO's letter concludes, "In the absence of standards defined in regulation, operators of covered vessels are forced to use their best judgment to determine how to design a video and audio surveillance system with the requisite technical specifications to meet the plain language of the law. AWO urges the Coast Guard to defer to operators' reasonable, good-faith interpretations of the statute and not to inappropriately expand the law without following the proper procedure." If you have any questions, please contact Caitlyn Stewart.
AWO Alternative Security Program Up for Renewal by August 23; Review Process Underway. The AWO Alternative Security Program (ASP), dated May 2019, will expire on August 23, 2024, per the Coast Guard's approval letter. AWO has agreed to a timeline for the renewal process with the Coast Guard and is convening the Security Working Group and other interested members to discuss any necessary changes. AWO expects the reapproved version of the ASP to be available by late July. If you have any questions, or would like to be involved, please contact Liam Morcroft.
Share Your Near-Miss Examples. AWO and MARAD are seeking near-miss policy examples from maritime operators to update the ASTM F3256 Standard Guide for Reporting and Recording of Near-Misses. Your input will shape the definitions used in the standard, which operators can voluntarily use to standardize near-miss collection nationwide. Company information will remain anonymous and will be routed to AWO for review prior to being shared with the working group. 
To participate, please use this form or email your organization's definition of a "near miss" to prior to May 23.
Spring Convention Recap
On May 14-15, AWO members gathered in Washington, DC for the Spring Convention, Annual Membership and Board of Directors Meeting, and Barge-In. Attendees discussed and voted on important association business, heard from regulatory leaders and other experts on timely business and public policy issues, met with legislators on Capitol Hill to advocate for industry priorities, and enjoyed one another's company at a variety of networking and social events. Thank you to everyone who joined us!
Read below for a full recap and stay tuned for video footage from the meeting, which will be available in the coming weeks.
AWO Welcomes New Directors. AWO leadership led an orientation session for new members of the Board of Directors on Monday, May 13 to welcome and help prepare incoming Directors as they begin their terms.
Annual Membership and Board of Directors Meeting Highlights.   Spring Convention business kicked off May 14 with the Annual Membership and Board of Directors meetings, which included a virtual participation option for Board members unable to make the trip.
The Board unanimously approved the 2024 Officers nomination slate and AWO President & CEO Jennifer Carpenter officially enrolled members of the Board of Directors for 2024-2025. Kelly Teichman, T&T Marine Executive Chairman, was elected Chairman, succeeding Rick Iuliucci, Vice President for the Vane Brothers Company. Patrick Sutton, Chief Operating Officer for American Commercial Barge Line, was elected Vice Chair and Brian Hughes, Vice President Operations & Sales, Hughes Bros., Inc., was re-elected Treasurer.
In her Chairman's remarks, Kelly highlighted the importance of a strong foundation, both within her family and company as well as the industry at large. She emphasized that AWO has led the way on advocacy, safety, and sustainability, having  "effectively positioned us to navigate today's challenges and create tomorrow's opportunities." She noted that even as we face today's challenges -- whether severe weather, accidents that impact commerce in our ports and harbors, or a turbulent election season -- we must continue to build on the foundation we have laid. Kelly also touched on workforce challenges, emphasizing that "there is a place [in this industry] for anyone who is committed to working hard" and underscoring her excitement for the continuing prominence of women in the industry. She closed her remarks by thanking AWO member leadership, the AWO staff, and members. "The strength of our united voice resides in the operational diversity of our industry," she concluded. Kelly also presented AWO with a framed photo of the USS Texas -- which served on several important missions in WWII -- being assisted out of its berth in San Jacinto by a T&T marine vessel.
AWO President & CEO Jennifer Carpenter thanked the outgoing member leadership, including Immediate Past Chairman Rick Iuliucci, whom she praised for his "quiet confidence" and "unflappable steadiness." She reviewed the landscape of challenges ahead, noting the critical role that the Board of Directors plays in guiding AWO -- providing strategic direction, resources, and sweat equity, and fostering a positive organizational culture. Jennifer also discussed the status of the current strategic plan, which is in its final year, emphasizing that AWO intends to "finish strong," while also working with the Executive Committee and Board to develop the next strategic plan to move the association and our industry forward.
AWO staff reported out on association initiatives and progress on federal and state advocacy, safety and sustainability, the recent member survey results, and public affairs and communications. Board actions included approval of the 2024 advocacy priorities, 2024 political program goals, and the 2023 financial audit.
Education Sessions Recap.  On Tuesday afternoon, May 14, Spring Convention attendees heard from guest speakers on timely topics including waterways infrastructure and sustainability.
Keynote Remarks from Vice Admiral Gautier. Vice Admiral Peter Gautier, U.S. Coast Guard Deputy Commandant for Operations, gave the keynote remarks. He emphasized that industry and the maritime transportation system are " absolutely crucial to our national security," and highlighted the nearly 30 years of partnership between AWO and the Coast Guard, which he called a "key tool" for the agency. He pointed to Subchapter M and the Waterways Action Plans as examples of the partnership's success. VADM Gautier also discussed challenges facing the Coast Guard, including new and novel threats and high demand for agency resources. He lauded the towing industry's assistance in the aftermath of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse, which he credited with helping get to "important milestones" in reopening the channel and emphasized that the Coast Guard "couldn't have done this without industry." He also touched on recapitalization efforts including cutters and icebreakers, mariner credentialing, workforce challenges, SASH requirements, and sustainability.
A Sustainability Conversation with Shell. Julie Ferland, Shell's General Manager Maritime Operations Americas, sat down with Immediate Past Chairman Rick Iuliucci for a dialogue on the oil major's outlook on sustainability, partnering with our industry, and the future of maritime. She discussed the partnership with Kirby Corporation for the Green Diamond, which she said in its first month of operation is well exceeding expectations. She also noted the challenge of figuring out how to decarbonize profitably, maintaining sustainability goals while keeping competitive with the markets. Ms. Ferland emphasized that many solutions will need to come into play to change the industry, from LNG to ports and port electrification. Rick noted that part of the challenge for operators is trying to plan for the uncertain future. When he asked Ms. Ferland about the benefits of partnering with industry, she noted that none of this can be done by a single company and that bringing partners together is the only way to bring the industry forward. Rick asked about lessons learned from the Green Diamond, which Ms. Ferland explained taught her the importance of having conversations "early and often"-- emphasizing that there is a lot to be learned still and that moving projects in this sphere takes a lot of time inside corporations as well as government. "It's a journey and is something that has no one solution," she noted.
A Discussion with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Tiffany Burroughs, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief of Navigation, joined Vice Chair Patrick Sutton for a discussion on navigation safety, waterways infrastructure, and other topics relating to the Corps. Ms. Burroughs noted that a big focus for USACE is the Capital Investment Strategy, using data and information to make investments efficiently with available funding from Congress. She said that while the agency's coastal budget has been strong due to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, the inland budget has been about the same for the last 4-5 years, which has proved a challenge for maintaining assets. Patrick and Ms. Burroughs discussed the difficulty that inflation causes in funding projects to completion, as well as USACE's use of strategic lock outages for planned maintenance.
Patrick asked about the improvement in handling low water between 2022 and 2023 and the role that proactive dredging played. Ms. Burroughs noted that prior to 2022, we had not seen low water for a decade, but that in 2023 the previous year's low water was fresh in everyone's minds. When asked about aging dredges, she emphasized that USACE has been looking at recapitalization of their fleet, which is a priority, but that funding is going to be a challenge.
Regarding remote lock operations, Ms. Burroughs emphasized that these would not be run by artificial intelligence and would include a human operating the lock from another location, but that such a setup would allow for flexibility in lock operations. She also noted that this is a multi-decade effort and that the industry will not see any changes for years. Patrick emphasized industry's concern about the safety of mariners, and Ms. Burroughs assured attendees that safety is the top priority of the Corps as well.
Barge-In Preparatory Session. The last session of the day was a Barge-In preparatory session led by AWO Vice President -- Legislative Affairs Craig Montesano and Director -- Political Affairs Joe Manion. They reviewed logistics, answered questions, and highlighted AWO's asks for attendees ahead of this year's advocacy day. 
AWO Members Head to Capitol Hill for Record-Breaking Barge-In Advocacy Day.  On May 15, AWO members took to Capitol Hill to visit with members of Congress and their staff and advocate for industry priorities including the Jones Act; the inclusion of industry priorities in the Coast Guard authorization bill, including changes to harassment reporting requirements in the Safer Seas Act; and navigation safety. This year's Barge-In saw 144 AWO members attend a total of 223 meetings with lawmakers. Attendees represented 40 states and met with 69 Senate offices and 154 House offices.
Rubbing Elbows and Enjoying the Nation's Capital.   AWO members enjoyed networking and socializing throughout the Spring Convention. Energetic attendees took part in an early morning jog on Tuesday, and everyone was able to mingle during the receptions and social dinner. Highlights included a Tuesday night social dinner at Succotash, a fact-filled tour of the Capitol led by Congressman Garret Graves, and a scenic Wednesday evening reception at the rooftop Observatory featuring a stunning view of the U.S. Capitol Building.
THANK YOU, SPONSORS!   AWO once again enthusiastically thanks our sponsors, whose generosity made the entire event such a success!
Visit AWO at Inland Marine Expo! AWO will be attending the Inland Marine Expo May 29-31 in Nashville, TN and will be headquartered at booth 1004. Please take a moment to stop by and say hi!
Justin Lampert, AWO Director -- Midcontinent Office will moderate a panel on lessons learned from last year's low water experience on May 30 and Kelly Teichman, who will take the helm from Rick Iuliucci as AWO Chairman of the Board on May 14, will make remarks and present a video on the American Waterways HERO Award. We look forward to seeing many AWO members there!