AWO Letter - October 4

Coast Guard Posts FAQs on Harassment, SASH Reporting Requirements. A new post on the Coast Guard Maritime Commons blog expands on the guidance provided in MSIB 1-23, featuring Frequently Asked Questions intended to clarify the agency’s implementation of the statutory requirement for the responsible entity of a vessel to report to the Coast Guard complaints or incidents of harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault. AWO has been urging senior Coast Guard leaders to clarify that reports of harassment should be predicated on a company’s determination that its policy has been violated, and the Coast Guard acknowledges in the FAQs that the law does not define harassment, explaining that “a responsible entity should refer to their company anti-harassment policy, procedures, safety management system, or similar document that defines harassment or describes incidents of harassment.” AWO continues to pursue advocacy with Congress and the Coast Guard to resolve the issues created by the undefined term “harassment” in the Safer Seas Act, passed as part of last year’s National Defense Authorization Act.
BREAKING: Coast Guard Publishes Final Rule on Inland Firefighting Training. On October 3, the Coast Guard issued its final rule revising the training requirements for national Merchant Mariner Credential endorsements for master of towing vessels (limited) and mate (pilot) of towing vessels on inland and Western Rivers routes. For many years, AWO advocated for a change in firefighting training requirements for inland mariners because the existing basic firefighting course includes training on equipment not carried by inland towing vessels. AWO staff are currently reviewing the final rule to understand the changes and will share more with members soon.
AWO Op-Ed on Jones Act and Offshore Wind Published in Boston Herald. In a new op-ed for the Boston Herald, the second largest publication in Massachusetts, AWO President & CEO Jennifer Carpenter highlights the Jones Act’s important role in offshore wind development and takes aim at critics calling for outsourcing maritime jobs to foreign mariners and companies. “American maritime companies are investing, innovating, and partnering to develop engineering solutions that will work here,” she emphasizes, “and the distinctly American offshore wind industry that emerges from that process will be stronger and more resilient for it.”
National Towing Safety Advisory Committee Meets, Approves Two Subcommittee Reports. At NTSAC’s meeting in New Orleans on September 26-27, the Committee approved reports on Task 21-03, “Report on the Anticipated Challenges Expected to Impact the Towing Vessel Industry,” and Task 21-04, “Report on the Challenges Faced by the Towing Vessel Industry as a Result of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The former report identifies a wide range of future challenges including infrastructure, crewing, technological developments, economic trends, and the effects of climate change and is expected to assist the Committee and the Coast Guard in developing new task statements for NTSAC.
The Committee also heard a presentation on the new sexual misconduct reporting requirements from the Coast Guard’s Suspension and Revocation National Center of Expertise. Jennifer Mehaffey, a litigation attorney with the COE, affirmed that in the absence of a statutory definition of harassment, a company should look to its own policy for a definition. In addition, Ms. Mehaffey said that nothing precludes a company from investigating a complaint or incident of harassment or sexual misconduct that it has reported to the Coast Guard and taking appropriate disciplinary or other actions per its policies.
Additionally, NTSAC’s active subcommittees met in open session to further develop and refine their recommendations. AWO has participated in the development of the Subchapter M Improvement Subcommittee’s list of recommendations and will be sharing them with the Towing Vessel Inspection Working Group to seek further feedback. AWO has also been following the work of the Subchapter M Crewmember Training Subcommittee, which decided that no changes to training requirements are needed but is developing a list of training best practices and resources for towing vessel operators.
The next NTSAC meeting will be held in Spring 2024. AWO will share more meeting information to members as soon as it is available. If you have any questions about NTSAC, please contact Caitlyn Stewart.
Thank You for Supporting the SCI Mountain Challenge! The AWO Waterways Warriors thank the members and friends who donated or offered support for Team AWO as they braved the elements in Vermont last weekend at the SCI Mountain Challenge. Thank you for partnering with us to support the Seamen’s Church Institute and its vital work to care for the mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeng of mariners, and congratulations to the AWO member teams who joined the Waterways Warriors in this worthy – and muddy – mission!
CISA Launches New Cybersecurity Public Awareness Campaign. On September 26, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced the launch of a new cybersecurity public awareness campaign, “Secure Our World.” The campaign will share best practices for securing personal, business, and product information from bad actors and its website includes videos, tip sheets on how to protect against common types of cyber attacks, and other resources for combatting cyber threats. As a reminder, the Coast Guard considers cybersecurity incidents to be breaches of security under the Maritime Transportation Security Act and instructs maritime industry stakeholders to report them to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.
AWO Testifies at NOAA Hearing on Rice’s Whales. On September 28, AWO testified at a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) public hearing on the proposed rule to designate a proposed critical habitat for Rice’s whales in the Gulf of Mexico that would extend from the eastern part of Texas to Florida’s west coast. At the hearing, AWO reiterated concerns expressed in a July comment letter that creating a critical habitat for Rice’s whales will open the door for future rulemaking that restricts nighttime transit. NOAA will accept public comments on the proposal until October 6, and the final rule is expected to be published in June 2024. If you have any questions, please contact Leah Harnish.
AWO President Discusses Low Water Situation with News Outlets. AWO President & CEO Jennifer Carpenter recently spoke to several publications regarding the low water situation on the Mississippi River. She appeared on an AccuWeather video story about the low water’s impact on barge traffic, spoke with the Daily Memphian and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about dealing with low and high water fluctuations on the River, and shared insights with USA Today about the current situation and lessons learned from last year’s low water event.
Freightvine Hosts AWO President & CEO. AWO President & CEO Jennifer Carpenter recently joined host Dr. Chris Caplice on the Freightvine podcast, discussing the tugboat, towboat and barge industry’s importance to the country. Listen online or wherever you find your podcasts.
AWO PAC Corner
AWO PAC and Inside Elections. AWO PAC and Inside Elections have partnered for another special edition, featuring updates on important House races, redistricting information, 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.

Marine Highway Grants Awarded. The Maritime Administration's (MARAD) United States Marine Highway Program has issued $12 million in grants for eight projects. These funds are intended to relieve congestion and reduce air emissions by shifting cargo from landside modes to waterways. This year’s awards include $600,000 for a zero-emission/carbon capture feasibility study to convert the coal-powered freight and passenger ferry SS Badger into a zero-emission vessel.
Towboat Golf Classic raises $100,000 for Seattle’s Maritime High School. Foss Maritime and Crowley Corporation spearheaded a recent golf tournament attended by over 300 maritime professionals at Newcastle Golf Course on September 15. The tournament raised $100,000 for the Seattle Maritime High School, which opened in 2021. Graduates of the school will either begin a maritime career or continue studying at a 2 or 4-year college.
September Issue of Navigating to Zero Now Available. In case you missed it, the latest edition of Navigating to Zero, AWO’s safety and sustainability newsletter, features stories on new materials added to the AWO Resources page, including High Value Near Misses and presentation materials from the Coastal and Interregion Safety Committees’ Summer Meeting; an interview with Jessica Robins, Moran Towing Corporation’s QHSSE Assistant Manager; two recent NTSB investigations; and a spotlight on American Waterway’s HERO Award winners from August and September.
Read these stories and more in the September edition of Navigating To Zero -- and please remember to send in your SSRP reports for the 3rd quarter, share your High Value Near Misses, and recognize your crew's HEROic acts! Click on the links or use the QR codes below for these programs.
Check out AWO's Resource Library! AWO has over 100 resources for members in the online education library on our website! From safety best practices, to meeting presentations, to podcasts about the importance of the Jones Act, you can find information on many topics in a variety of formats. The resource library is also available on the AWO mobile app.
Reminder: Share Your Best Recent Company Photos and Videos with AWO! We are always looking for new photos and videos from our members to help us tell the tugboat, towboat and barge industry’s compelling story, and we encourage you to share recent media of your vessels, mariners, and operations 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, our coalition partners may ask to use some of these images for our work on various campaigns, and 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.


AWO’s Fall Convention and Board of Directors Meeting is Next Week! There is still time to join AWO for the Board of Directors Meeting and Fall Convention next week, October 10-11 in Philadelphia, PA. Click here to register and email Caitlin Clark with any questions.