AWO Letter - May 4

AWO Welcomes New Members. Please join AWO in giving a warm welcome to our newest members:
  • Rolls-Royce Solutions America, Inc. MTU, the Business Unit Power Systems of Rolls-Royce, designs and manufactures diesel engines for a wide variety of applications including power generation, construction equipment, military and marine applications.
  • Marron Lawyers, APC. Marron Lawyers is a boutique law firm with nationwide reach and a focus on waterways operators.
  • Signal Mutual. Signal Mutual Indemnity Association Ltd. is a non-profit mutual organization authorized by the Department of Labor as a Group Self-Insurer.
  • Halter Consulting, LLC. Halter Consulting provides consulting services to operators and is certified with multiple TPOs to perform vessel audits, management audits, and surveys.
For more information, please contact Caitlin Kidd.
Breaking News: DOT Approves Oral Fluids Drug Testing. On May 2, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a final rule adding oral fluid testing to the federal workplace drug testing program for the airline, rail, trucking, and transit industries that are under direct DOT regulation through the FAA, FRA, FMCSA, and FTA. Although the rule becomes effective June 1, employers will only be able to begin using the oral fluid testing option once at least two laboratories have been certified by the Department of Health and Human Services to perform testing analysis. At present, no labs have been certified. Once implemented, it will be an employer’s choice, not an employee’s choice, whether to use the oral fluid or urine testing method. AWO is working to understand the Coast Guard’s implementation process and timeline and will continue to advocate for rapid implementation to align maritime employers with other transportation modes.
AWO APC Expiration Date Removed. The Coast Guard’s Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy (CG-MER) has notified AWO that the agency has removed the expiration date from the AWO Emergency Towing Alternative Planning Criterion (APC), meaning that AWO members operating on the Western Rivers will be able to use the AWO APC to satisfy emergency towing requirements in their vessel response plans (VRPs) indefinitely. This notification comes following a change to CG-MER Policy Letter 01-17, Alternative Planning Criteria National Guidelines for Vessel Response Plans, which removed the five-year period of acceptance for APCs accepted by CG-MER.
This is a big win for AWO members using the AWO APC. Although previous policy had authorized the Coast Guard to accept APCs for a five-year period, the agency’s ongoing reconsideration of its VRP and APC had led to significant uncertainty and much shorter approval periods. The AWO APC was accepted for only three years in 2019, and its acceptance was extended by one year in both 2022 and 2023. Throughout this time, AWO urged the Coast Guard to recognize that APCs are necessary to adapt VRP regulations in areas where the national planning criteria are infeasible and to provide APC sponsors with more clarity and certainty. The Coast Guard’s removal of the AWO APC’s expiration date gives members confidence that they may continue to use the APC and benefit from its common-sense mutual assistance approach to emergency towing on the Western Rivers into the future. For more information, please contact Adila Fathallah.
House T&I Committee Rejects Anti-Jones Act Amendments. Amendments offered by Reps. Scott Perry (R-PA) and Jake Auchincloss (D-MA) that would have severely weakened the Jones Act were defeated decisively on bipartisan votes of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during the May 3 markup of the 2023 Coast Guard Authorization Act. Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) and Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA) urged Members to vote against the amendments. The Perry and Auchincloss measures, which failed by votes of 53-4 and 54-6, respectively, targeted the LNG and offshore wind markets and would have undercut ongoing and future investments being made by domestic maritime companies. AWO thanks Chairman Graves, Rep. Larsen, and the Members of the T&I Committee who voted to reject these amendments.
OMB Approves Updates to EPA Guidance for NDZs; Publication Expected Soon. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has approved the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) updates to its no-discharge zone (NDZ) guidance for state officials submitting applications, and the new guidance will be published in the Federal Register in the near future. This will be the first update to EPA’s guidance in almost 20 years. AWO submitted comments on EPA’s draft revisions in August 2022 asking the agency to require states to include more information in their NDZ applications, use more thorough techniques to determine the number of commercial vessels operating in the proposed NDZ, and update their cost analysis tool to better reflect the proposed NDZ impacts on commercial vessel operations. AWO is monitoring the Federal Register for the forthcoming guidance and will provide more information in the next newsletter. If you have questions, please contact Leah Harnish.
EPA Sets CARB Waiver Hearing Date. On April 27, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that it will hold a virtual public hearing on the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) request for authorization to enforce its amendments to its commercial harbor craft (CHC) regulations on June 1 at 10:00 am EDT. This announcement comes after requests for a hearing from AWO and other stakeholders, including a coalition of maritime industry stakeholders led by AWO, who voiced concerns about CARB’s request. AWO is coordinating member comments and preparing testimony to urge EPA to reject the request or require modifications to the regulations due to the technical infeasibility of compliance within the timeframe set by CARB. If you are interested in testifying or would like more information, please contact Leah Harnish.
Coast Guard Allows Digital Verification of MMCs to Minimize Credentialing Delay Impacts. In response to the National Maritime Center’s ongoing technical challenges with printing Merchant Mariner Credentials, Coast Guard MSIB 06-23 details a process for mariners, employers, and the Coast Guard to verify that a mariner holds a valid MMC and endorsements when an MMC has not been physically printed and the mariner has not received it. This verification process can only be used for mariners on domestic voyages. To verify that a mariner’s MMC application has been approved and validated, input the mariner’s information in the Merchant Mariner Application Status tool. The “Credential State” category must be listed as Approved to Print, Printed, or Issued to indicate that the MMC application has been approved. Additionally, to check the validity of a credential, use the MMLD Credential Verification tool. Please note that new credential issuance and expiration dates in this tool will not update until an MMC application has moved to Printed or Issued status.
NMC Creates New E-mail Address for Submitting AI Letter Responses. To increase credential processing efficiency, the Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center (NMC) created a new e-mail address,, to submit information in response to Awaiting Information (AI) Letters. Recent AI letters from the NMC have directed mariners to utilize the general customer service address, but going forward AI letters will direct mariners to use the new address. AI letter responses can still be submitted by mail or through the customer service email address; however, using the new email address will result in the fastest processing.
Coast Guard Seeks Input on Maritime Oil Spill Response Plan Advisory Group Recommendations. On March 30, the Coast Guard published a notice in the Federal Register inviting public input on MORPAG's recommendations, which include, among others: developing tools to support greater consistency and uniformity in Coast Guard reviews of vessel response plan (VRP) and alternative planning criteria (APC) submissions; taking steps to standardize the submission and evaluation process for APC; enforcing compliance with national planning criteria (NPC) by developing processes to ensure vessel operators have considered all available resources during VRP submission; reviewing and clarifying requirements for agreements with vessels of opportunity; and evaluating VRP program staffing and workflow. MORPAG was formed by the Coast Guard in 2020 to review the agency’s VRP program and processes in response to the findings of a Congressionally mandated audit conducted by the Government Accountability Office. AWO will be making comments and encourages members to provide input to inform our feedback. Comments are due by June 28. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Adila Fathallah.
Coast Guard Continues to Harmonize Lifejacket Approval Requirements. On April 7, the Coast Guard published a notice in the Federal Register proposing to amend the approval requirements for lifejackets by incorporating new American National Standards Institute (ANSI) industry consensus standards, which have been harmonized with Canadian and UL standards, to replace existing legacy standards. The amendments would streamline the process for the approval of PFDs and allow manufacturers the opportunity to produce more innovative equipment that would meet approval requirements in both Canada and the United States. The Coast Guard would also revise lifejacket and PFD carriage requirements to allow for the use of equipment approved under the new standards, including for Subchapter M towing vessels, and to remove obsolete equipment approval requirements. The agency would not remove any currently accepted approval series from the carriage requirements, and vessel operators will not need to purchase new equipment if their current equipment is in good and serviceable condition. Comments are due by June 6. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Adila Fathallah.
Congressional Black Caucus Institute’s 21st Century Council Annual Report Supports AWO Priorities. As a result of AWO’s ongoing collaboration with the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, this year’s CBCI 21st Council Annual Report highlights the economic and sustainability contributions of the tugboat, towboat and barge industry, and expresses support for key AWO priorities including safeguarding the Jones Act, investing in ports and waterways infrastructure, and avoiding policies that impede the efficiency of commercial navigation. The report also identifies the ways in which our industry helps advance United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The section covering domestic maritime can be viewed on pages 98-101 of the report.
AWO Mariner Workforce Forum Highlights Workplace Culture. In AWO’s second Mariner Workforce Forum on April 20, Jenny Johnson, founder and CEO of Maritime Inclusion Partners, shared her insights on creating a workplace culture that attracts and retains mariners from all walks of life. Members participating in the virtual forum also had a chance to ask questions and respond to polls about their challenges with mariner recruitment, retention, and advancement to continue guiding AWO’s Workforce Action Plan. A recording of the presentations from the first half of the forum is available in AWO’s Member Resources Library. Watch for registration details for the next AWO Mariner Workforce Forum on the AWO events page.
AWO President Interviews George Landrith on the China Threat, Jones Act. On the latest episode of the American Maritime Podcast, George Landrith, President & CEO of Frontiers of Freedom, joined AWO President & CEO Jennifer Carpenter to discuss the China threat, the economic importance of the Jones Act, the American sealift fleet, and more.
AWO President on Between the Levees Podcast. AWO President & CEO Jennifer Carpenter recently joined Tim Tregle on his Between the Levees podcast, discussing her experience working for AWO through the years and her passion for the tugboat, towboat and barge industry. She also talked about the critical issues the industry is facing today as well as important milestones in the industry’s safety journey, including development of the Responsible Carrier Program and the road to Subchapter M.
SCI Luncheon Honors Channel Shipyard’s Dennis Steger. During the recent Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) 2023 Maritime Training Benefit Luncheon in Houston, SCI honored AWO member Dennis Steger of Channel Shipyard Co. and Lynchburg Shipyard with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the maritime industry. Channel Shipyard’s Cherrie Felder provided a warm and heartfelt introduction of Dennis, and AWO Chairman Clark Todd, Blessey Marine Services, Inc., and Austin Golding, Golding Barge Line, Inc., co-chaired the luncheon, which raised $270,000 for SCI’s worthy mission to support mariners.
AWO and Inside Elections. AWO has partnered with Inside Elections for another special edition, featuring an overview of the 2024 elections for the U.S. Senate.
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.
NTSB Releases Quarterly Summary of Marine Safety Events. The National Transportation Safety Board recently released a quarterly summary of marine safety events, which highlights key safety concerns for each of the investigation reports included in the summary. The six incidents detailed in this publication included two bridge allisions, one offshore platform allision, one fire, one breakaway, and one loss of a crane on board a construction barge. Key safety concerns identified relating to these incidents included fatigue, combustible materials and smoldering fires, construction barge crawler crane movement, impairment, improper bollard inspection, and navigation assessment. Details of the incidents can be found on
Highway Administration Announces Grant Opportunity to Reduce Truck Emissions at Ports. The Federal Highway Administration has announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the 2022-2023 Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities (RTEPF) Grant Program. This NOFO, worth $160 million, is for the first round of the $400 million competitive RTEPF program. The program will provide funding to test, evaluate, and deploy projects that reduce port-related emissions from idling trucks, including through improvements in port electrification, port operations including heavy-duty commercial vehicles, and other related projects. Eligible applicants are entities that have authority over, operate, or utilize port facilities or have authority over areas within or adjacent to ports. Applications close June 26, 2023.
April Navigating to Zero Recap. In the latest edition of AWO's Navigating to Zero Safety and Sustainability Newsletter, AWO recognized the recent winners of the American Waterways Honor & Excellence in Rescue Operations (HERO) Award, including mariners from Norfolk Tug Company, SCF Marine, Stasinos Marine, Crescent Towing, Kirby Inland Marine, Amherst Madison, Inc., and Genesis Marine. To submit your crew's HEROic actions or for more information on the program, visit our American Waterways HERO Award webpage.
Our Safety Professional Focus interview with Angie Fay, VP HS&E and Compliance for Blessey Marine Services, Inc., shared valuable insights about the safety priorities, training techniques, and engagement strategies that Blessey is focusing on this year, along with Angie’s advice for new members of the maritime industry.
The AWO Safety Committees shared more important takeaways from their winter meeting, including insights from a future of training panel, the Tankering and Barge Operations Subcommittee's Indiana Jones-themed presentation highlighting the importance of pushing for improvements in tankermen safety, and the Subcommittee on Distracted Operations Deckhand's newly published Training Guide. AWO members can access all of the winter meeting's presentations on the AWO’s Resources webpage.
Other features include recent Coast Guard safety alerts and findings of concern, an introduction to the responsibilities of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), AWO safety and sustainability Subcommittee updates, and ‘lazy’ sustainability tips you can do from your couch.
To read these stories and many more, please find April's Navigating to Zero Safety Newsletter on AWO's website. You can sign up to join our distribution list by emailing
Washington State Budget Includes Funds for Commercial Pumpouts. With the Puget Sound No Discharge Zone taking effect this month, the Washington state legislature released a budget that includes $800,000 for critical commercial pumpouts just in time. As the 105-day legislative session came to a close, the legislature approved a budget including the funds for at least one, but potentially three, commercial pumpout(s), in the centrally located Port of Anacortes. AWO led this effort and partnered with the Port of Anacortes and Senator Liz Lovelett and Representative Julia Reed to get the funding into the budget and over the finish line. Outside of any special sessions, the legislature will reconvene in early January 2024 for a 60-day session.
Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach Captain of the Port Meets with AWO. CAPT Ryan Manning, Captain of the Port of Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach, met with AWO Pacific Region Chairman Shawn Bennett and Peter Schrappen, AWO Vice President – Pacific Region on April 26 to discuss CARB’s Commercial Harbor Craft Rule. During Peter’s visit to Southern California, he also attended the Propeller Club of Los Angeles – Long Beach meeting featuring CAPT Manning and participated in a tugboat tour hosted by Crowley Maritime Corporation. During CAPT Manning’s remarks at the Propeller Club, he saluted AWO for being a valued stakeholder.
Oakland A’s Make a Move for Las Vegas, Resolving Maritime Industry Concerns. The Oakland A’s have signaled that they will move to Las Vegas with the hopes of playing in a new ballpark there by 2027. For over a decade, the A’s have been looking to build a new stadium, with their most recent efforts involving Howard Terminal. AWO and other partners have objected to this location, signing onto a coalition letter that laid out the problems inherent in building an arena at this site. We will continue to monitor any plans for the area that would negatively impact maritime operations.
AWO Member & Staff Visit Springfield, IL. AWO Senior Manager – Midcontinent Office Justin Lampert and Director – State Advocacy Kyle Burleson were joined by Angela Grett of Ingram Barge Company on April 18-19 for meetings in Springfield, Illinois, the state’s capital. The trio met with a bipartisan group of legislators as well as several high-ranking officials in the Pritzker Administration, including the Office of Lieutenant Governor, the Secretary of Transportation and the Director of the Department of Natural Resources. Topics of discussion included the importance of the Jones Act to Illinois, workforce development, the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, and the maritime industry’s economic impact on the state.
AWO Provides Comments on SouthCoast Wind DEIS. AWO recently submitted comments on the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the SouthCoast Wind Energy offshore wind development. In the comments, AWO requested that BOEM alter the proposed cable paths in order to minimize interaction with navigation routes and bury the cables at least 15 feet deep to ensure that anchors do not damage or interfere with any offshore export cables.
BOEM Issues Call for Offshore Wind Development in Gulf of Maine. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has issued a Call for Information and Nominations for commercial offshore wind leasing in the Gulf of Maine. The Call will gauge interest in and assess public comments on offshore wind development in the area. Comments are due June 12. Once BOEM determines the level of commercial interest in the call area, the agency will develop proposed Wind Energy Areas for future leasing.
Final MNMPARS Issued. The U.S. Coast Guard First District has released the final Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Port Access Route Study (MNMPARS), which recommends creating four navigation safety fairways and two fairway zones to protect navigation routes in the Gulf of Maine. Coast Guard Headquarters will now consider these recommendations and determine how to move forward with a rulemaking process. These recommendations will aid navigation safety in light of expected offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine.
Coast Guard to Undertake Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands PARS. The Coast Guard has announced an upcoming Port Access Route Study for approaches to the Ports of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands in light of the recent opening of territorial waters for offshore wind development. The study will determine whether navigation safety fairways are needed to safeguard navigation routes in light of potential development. Comments are due by July 6.
Spring Convention & Barge-In. It’s your last chance to register to join your fellow AWO members in our Nation's Capital for the 2023 Spring Convention & Barge-In! AWO is hosting our marquee event on May 10-11 at the Grand Hyatt, Washington, D.C. Join AWO members and colleagues to meet in-person with Members of Congress to convey the vital role of maritime in the U.S. economy, national security and supply chain. For more information, contact Caitlin Clark.