Navigating to Zero - April 2024

AWO's Recreational Boating Safety Working Group Calls for Participation in Wear Your Life Jacket at Work Day & Boating Safety Week
AWO has established a Recreational Boating Safety Working Group that is dedicated to developing a robust outreach and education program that addresses safety on multi-use waterways. One of the ways the group is getting our safety message out is by participating in Wear Your Life Jacket at Work Day on May 17 and Safe Boating week May 18 -- 24.
AWO encourages all members to participate in this virtual event! Joining our push for safety is easy -- simply follow these three easy steps on May 17:
  1. Spread the word: Let your co-workers know that May 17 is Wear Your Life Jacket at Work Day.
  2. Snap a picture: Take a picture of you and your co-workers in life jackets at work or home on May 17.
  3. Share on social: Share on social media using the hashtag #wearyourlifejacketatworkday. Be sure to tag AWO and the Safe Boating Campaign too!
  • @BoatingCampaign & @American-Waterways-Operators on Facebook
  • @BoatingCampaign & @AWOAdvocacy on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn
  • Don't use social media? Email photos to Use the subject line "Life Jacket at Work Pictures" to be sure your pictures are included in AWO's posts!
To join the Recreational Boater Safety Working Group or learn more about Boating Safety Week, please email
Maritime Micro-Learning for Mega-Benefits
Online training content is often presented as large, comprehensive courses that trainees are required to watch or work through from start to finish. Recently, however, an alternative approach called micro-learning has garnered interest from ESH managers. The micro-learning method, characterized by short, focused learning modules, is a practical solution that can help an employer overcome many of the familiar training hurdles, including limitations on continuous time to train, inability to gather a large group together for scheduling reasons, and other barriers typical to tug and barge operations.
Ripple Operations and Marine Learning Systems dove into micro-learning and its benefits for maritime training in a recent Maritime Reporter "Training Tips for Ships" column, written by founder Murray Goldberg. ​ Murray built one of the very first commercially available Learning Management Systems and has been writing training blogs for Marine Link and Maritime Reporter since 2019. To read more, follow this link to the full article.
American Waterways HERO Award -- Nominate Your Crew to Recognize Their Heroic Acts
Our industry's mariners work tirelessly to ensure the smooth flow of commerce while safeguarding our nation's waterways, and while our industry is the safest mode of freight transportation, emergencies can and do still happen. It is in those crucial moments that our vessel crew members exemplify our industry-wide commitment to safety, leading first response and rescue efforts for their colleagues and their communities -- actions that can aptly be described as heroic.
The American Waterways Honor & Excellence in Rescue Operations (HERO) Award recognizes these efforts, highlighting the heroism of our mariners and telling the story of AWO member company employees whose actions demonstrate selflessness, skill and bravery. We need your help in identifying these heroic acts! Please acknowledge your employees' rescue efforts by submitting a nomination at
Qualifying events for the award include, among others: rescuing commercial or recreational mariners; responding to a medical emergency onboard; recovering a person who has fallen overboard; responding to a person in distress while traveling to/from the boat; and other selfless service actions that reflect the safety culture of the American tugboat, towboat and barge industry.
Awardees will receive a certificate of recognition for each vessel involved in the rescue, and each mariner will be issued a commemorative American Waterways HERO Award coin. In addition, mariners will receive a one-year complimentary Marine License & Professional Liability Insurance policy, thanks to award sponsor 360 Coverage Pros.
Congratulations to the March recipient of the American Waterways HERO Award:
Date of Event
To submit a nomination for the HERO Award or to learn more about the program, visit the HERO Award page on the AWO website.
Safety Professional Spotlight
Ms. Jill Lazo ( ) coordinates the towing vessel safety and third-party oversight programs for the U.S. Coast Guard's Thirteenth District, aligning projects with strategic goals and providing policy analysis and clarifications. In her previous role as a Master Marine Inspector, she oversaw major conversions and new constructions, trained over 200 inspectors, and served in various roles both active-duty and as a reservist. Ms. Lazo holds degrees in English Literature and Diplomacy and has received numerous awards throughout her distinguished career.
Can you talk about the U.S. Coast Guard's safety culture and share an example of how it contributes to your safe operations?
While procedural in practice, the U.S. Coast Guard's safety culture is fundamentally based on passion and purpose, whether the focus is on international or individual safety. We embrace every learning opportunity as having lifesaving potential.
One example of our safety culture contributing to safe operations is our stringent application of Confined and Enclosed Space Entry Policies and Procedures, which some may see as nitpicky. Regardless of perception, we are committed to following the letter of the law to ensure that all our mariners come home safe. The risk of entering a space without following procedure is well documented, so flexibility is not an option.
Another example of policy driven by a culture is how we test carbon dioxide fixed fire extinguishing systems. The regulation is a direct result of LCDR William B. Turek's experience while witnessing the testing of a low-pressure carbon dioxide extinguishing system being initiated. LCDR Turek realized that a higher-than-expected amount of carbon dioxide was released, prompting him to react swiftly, saving lives by evacuating crew members onboard the M/V CAPE DIAMOND on March 3, 1993. After this incident, the U.S. Guard issued Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular No. 09-00 to prevent an accidental discharge of an installed carbon dioxide fire extinguishing system with protected spaces on board a commercial vessel during shipyard periods or dockside periods. And in 2013, the U.S. Coast Guard established the William B. Turek Award of Excellence in Marine Inspections, providing the opportunity to recognize high-performing marine inspectors with an award in his honor.
Can you share some milestones you achieved with the U.S. Coast Guard Thirteenth District safety program in 2023 and discuss any new or continuing initiatives being undertaken in 2024?
In 2023, my milestones included contributing to safety of automation testing, supporting TOTE's North Star LNG conversion, strengthening stakeholder relationships and maritime governance in the Pacific Northwest, and continuing to lead the towing vessel safety program and third party oversight program for all vessel platforms. In 2024, the U.S. Coast Guard is focusing on many exciting initiatives, including delivery of enhanced cybersecurity for the marine transportation system; further development of programs that ensure safe operation of remote controlled and autonomous vessels; supporting safe use of alternative fuels in maritime applications; and education and oversight of the application of new policies related to sexual assault and harassment reporting, prevention, and response.
You have been highly successful in your career! Can you share the story of how you came to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard and any advice for someone considering public or commercial service in support of the United States' marine transportation system?
I boarded my first oil tanker when I was two years old. We were visiting my uncle who was a radio officer on a foreign oil tanker. I've been on the water all my life. My dad was a U.S. Coast Guard Subsistence Specialist, who retired as a Chief after 28 years. My parents always made sure that my siblings and I were on or near the water. So, it was only natural that right after high school, and two years in the Air Force JROTC, I felt drawn to join the U.S. Coast Guard. I enlisted in 1993 and achieved the rank of First-Class Petty Officer. After 11 years, I was commissioned as a Coast Guard Reserve Officer and successfully served for another 11 years and retired as a Lieutenant Commander. The way I got into marine inspections was as a vessel certification clerk, and then worked as a marine inspection coordinator dispatching and scheduling marine inspectors and carrying out marine inspection administration. I was given the opportunity to interview as a Civilian Apprentice Marine Inspector, which afforded me the opportunities to achieve marine inspector qualifications and the coveted award of Master Marine Inspector in 2017. From 2020 to present I am serving in the position of Towing Vessel Safety and Third-Party Oversight Coordinator at the Coast Guard Thirteenth District.
My advice to someone considering maritime transportation as a career is to embrace all training opportunities you are provided. Get all the qualifications, certifications, and licenses that you can and be open to advice and criticism. Don't stop asking questions and never stop learning. If I had to do it all over again, I would! I've loved every minute of it.
Sustainability Tech Working Group Update
In early April, the AWO Sustainability Tech Working Group held its second meeting of 2024. The meeting featured two guest speakers who discussed the current state of biofuels in the U.S. and their potential for maritime use. Bill Fitch, from Clean Fuels Alliance America, the trade association for biodiesel, renewable diesel, and sustainable aviation fuel, was joined by Dan Falcone from Approved Oil, the largest renewable diesel distributor on the East Coast. Additional discussion topics included climate disclosure standards, EPA's Clean Ports Program Build America Buy America waiver, and an update on the IMO's recent Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting.
The Sustainability Tech Working Group meets every two months, with the next meeting scheduled for the end of May. If you or someone in your organization would like to join the working group, please email Bradley Trammell at, and check out the AWO Sustainability Resources webpage for more resources.
Federal Aviation Administration Updates Fatigue Rules Following Several Near Miss Events
Safety, risk, and operations managers across safety-sensitive industries have long been interested in ensuring employees receive enough rest, and recent airport runway near-misses have drawn even greater attention to the issue from the media and the public.
Accordingly, FAA Administrator Michael G. Whitaker requested a study in December 2023 to investigate the latest science on human sleep needs and fatigue considerations as applied to FAA's workforce, work requirements, and scheduling practices. Referring to the resulting report, Assessing Fatigue Risk in FAA Air Traffic Operations, Mr. Whitaker concluded there were "serious concerns with respect to [air traffic] controller fatigue and off-duty time." In a recent memorandum, he directed the FAA to implement recommendations including: requirements for minimum off-duty breaks before all shifts; implementation of mechanisms to monitor and eliminate schedule exceedances; education of controllers about fatigue; and development of a single repository for FAA fatigue risk management policies and guidance.
While the FAA's work does not apply directly to the tugboat, towboat and barge industry, air traffic controllers and mariners may have similar fatigue risk factors. Resources available in AWO's resource library can help members build fatigue risk management and crew endurance policies and procedures that will prevent incidents and increase mariner health and wellness.
For more information on AWO's fatigue risk management resources, contact
Forecasters Predict ‘Extremely Active' Atlantic Hurricane Season in 2024
The first depression of the 2024 season was already identified on April 24 and Colorado State University meteorologists are predicting an extremely active Atlantic hurricane season. Conditions will be shaped by record high ocean surface temperatures and the transition of El Niño to La Niña, which translates into hurricane-favorable wind shear conditions.
Named Storms
Hurricanes (Category 1-2)
Major Hurricanes (Category 3-4-5)
Number of Storms
Number of Days
The probability of U.S. and Caribbean major hurricane landfall is estimated to be well above average, with total activity approximately 170% higher than long term averages.
New Benzene Standard - Resources Available From GHD
The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has reduced the threshold limit value - time-weighted average (TLV-TWA) for benzene from 0.5 parts per million (ppm) or 500 parts per billion (ppb) to 0.02 ppm or 20 ppb. They have also eliminated the short-term exposure limit (STEL) of 2.5 ppm.
While the ACIGH TLV has not changed U.S. regulations, Canadian regulations do follow the TLV recommendation. Further, existing air monitoring instruments currently used to measure airborne concentrations of benzene may not be sensitive enough to detect the new TLV values, suggesting employers begin thinking of new ways of working that may include incorporating increased personal protective equipment (PPE), changing work/rest schedules, and examining other processes.
If you would like to learn more about this change, GHD put together a free webinar that will help attendees understand the changes and discuss best practices. The webinar is available at this link.
Please contact Mike Breslin at with any questions.
Contact of Susan K Tow with Natchez-Vidalia Bridge
Casualty type
Lower Mississippi River, mile 363, Natchez, Mississippi
2242 CDT
Property damage
$2 million est.
Environ. damage
Negligible: dry cargo barge flooding
Summary of Incident:
On April 23, 2023, about 2242 local time, the towing vessel Susan K was pushing 25 barges downbound on the Lower Mississippi River when the tow struck the center bridge pier on the Natchez-Vidalia Bridge, which connects the cities of Natchez, Mississippi, and Vidalia, Louisiana. One barge sank, and two other barges were damaged; the Susan K was undamaged. No pollution or injuries were reported. Damage to the barges and cargo was estimated at $2 million. For the full report, visit the NTSB website .
Investigation :
The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the contact was complacency. The captain told investigators that he was not paying attention, saying, "You get complacent sometimes when you do something so many times and you're sloppy." The captain had more than 45 years of experience in the industry, 33 years steering, and had made more than 200 transits of the route. Additionally, the captain and the NTSB confirmed that cell phones and fatigue were not a factor in this incident.
NTSB Recommendations:
Repetition and monotony can cause even the most experienced and skilled mariner to become complacent and lose situational awareness. Developing strategies that help maintain focus is a good practice. These strategies may include continuous scanning of instruments and surroundings outside the wheelhouse, strict adherence to procedures, eliminating distractions, changing position or moving (standing up or walking around), and getting enough sleep and exercise.
AWO Recommendations
  • Complacency occurs when individuals become overly comfortable or assume that familiar tasks are inherently safe. It leads to a lack of attention, reduced vigilance, and a tendency to cut corners. It can blind workers to potential risks. They may skip safety checks, ignore warning signs, or underestimate hazards, which is a dangerous mindset to have in the marine transportation business.
  • Members of AWO and participants in Shell's Maritime Partners in Safety are familiar with a mitigation strategy that has been labeled "chronic unease."
  • Chronic unease refers to a persistent state of vigilance, caution, and awareness. It involves recognizing potential hazards and maintaining a healthy skepticism and level of stress, even during routine tasks.
  • To learn more about chronic unease and avoiding complacency, visit AWO's resource library to view a recording of Habit Superhero Sharon Lipinski's presentation, "The Biological Basis of Complacency," or visit AWO member Shell's Maritime Partners in Safety website to download materials that can help facilitate a discussion with your crew.
Summary of Incident:
Flooding of Towing Vessel
Joanne Marie
Casualty type
Flooding / Hull Failure
Harvey Canal, New Orleans, Louisiana
0600 CDT
Property damage
Environ. damage
10 gallons of diesel released
On June 25, 2023, about 0600 local time, the inspected towing vessel Joanne Marie was found partially submerged while moored at a shipyard on the Harvey Canal near New Orleans, Louisiana. There were no crewmembers or shipyard workers on board the vessel. An estimated 10 gallons of diesel fuel were released into the water. Damage to the vessel was $176,751. For the full report, visit the NTSB website .
The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the flooding and partial sinking of the Joanne Marie was the ingress of water into the engine room through a through-hull pipe located near the waterline due to an obstructed spring-loaded check valve on a cofferdam bilge pump discharge. Contributing to the sinking were inadequate procedures for securing unattended vessels.
NTSB Recommendations:
Towing vessel operators should assess risks and develop tasks in their towing safety management system (TSMS) for vessels that are unattended or in layup status. TSMS task lists for such vessels should address factors in the configuration of the vessel that could lead to a casualty. To prevent flooding, the NTSB recommends:
  • Closing through hull fitting valves;
  • Tightening packing glands on shaft seals;
  • Conducting recorded periodic rounds of vessel spaces;
  • Installing high water bilge alarms and fire detection systems with remote alert capacity when the vessel is left unmanned and at risk of flooding; and
  • Reviewing procedures to identify flooding risks.
AWO Recommendations
AWO agrees with the NTSB recommendations and further recommends that operators:
  • Investigate sea strainers to be sure they are small enough to prevent clogging of pump bodies with foreign debris; and
  • Consider the risks of flooding and mitigations that could include connecting electric bilge pumps to shore power.
BSEE Safety Alerts
Safety Alert 483 - Scam Alert: Suspicious Requests for Payment
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) issued a Safety Alert to inform users about possible scams requesting payment of fines for violations. The alert lists the process BSEE will take to collect civil penalties and warns about attempts by bad actors to collect illegitimate payments. The full alert is available here: BSEE Safety Alert 483 - Scam Alert: Suspicious Requests for Payment | Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
Safety Alert 482 - BSEE Risk Based Inspection Identifies Welding and Burning Hazards
Critical Issues:
Hot work conducted with less than the required 35-foot distance away from flammable & combustible materials.
Ensure flammables and combustibles are removed from hot work area.
Fire extinguishers and gas detection devices not marked properly.
Inspect mitigation equipment to ensure it is in place, marked, and accessible near hot work.
Lack of hazard analysis and safe welding plans prior to starting hot work.
Review policy and process for identifying hazards and develop safe welding plans before hot work begins.
Inadequate training.
Ensure all employees are trained to standard.
Applicable regulations: 29 CFR 1910 Subpart Q & 1910.252
BSEE reviewed 22 inspections conducted over a two-year period that revealed a pattern of critical fire safety risks related to welding and burning hazards. BSEE's Risk‐Based Inspection (RBI) Program focuses agency resources on higher‐risk facilities and operations.
AWO Safety Statistics Reporting Program Improvements -- Guidance Published in New SSRP Manual
AWO has implemented improvements and clarifications to our Safety Statistics Reporting Program (SSRP), which took effect for all SSRP users on April 1, 2024. The AWO Safety Statistics Reporting Program Manual, a new guide outlining the changes and offering technical guidance for users, is now posted in the AWO Resources Library for member review and is also available on the SSRP website.
The manual is designed to aid AWO members in understanding the program criteria for the SSRP. It includes definitions for terms used in the SSRP, such as:
Lost Time Injuries
Crew Hours
Falls Overboard
Crew Fatalities
Recordable Injuries
Severity Levels for Lost Time Injuries
The manual also provides step-by-step instructions for data entry, covering how to enter current data, ho w to edit past submissions, and how to correct erroneous submissions. In addition, the manual explains how members can create and download products from the SSRP, including:
Directions for creating custom comparisons of member data
Directions for viewing trends in member data
Directions for viewing the membership's recordable and lost time injury rates and severity trends
If you have not already entered past data, please visit the Safety Statistics Reporting Program website and enter your data for the fourth quarter of 2023, as well as any historical data that may be missing. Your submission is confidential and crucial to our industry's benchmarking, advocacy, and safety and sustainability initiatives.
If you have any questions, please contact