Navigating to Zero - February 2023

New Year – New Challenges & New Opportunities

What are your professional goals for the new year? Are you considering ways to better communicate a strong safety culture? Are you looking for resources to develop your safety program? Whatever your safety and sustainability goals are, AWO wants to support you in building the competencies, best practices, and capacity to operate at the highest standards of safety, sustainability, efficiency, and innovation.

AWO’s goals for the new year are guided by our Strategic Plan, a living document informed through deep listening and active partnership with you, our members. The plan is not a reference, it is a compass that guides AWO’s work in our industry’s voyage to care for our employees and our communities by continuously improving the safety of our operations, the professionalism of our people, and the protection of our environment.

Within the plan, we define the milestones and deliverables that will be proof of our progress. To achieve the 2024 milestones of advancing the industry’s safety culture and expanding safety data and analysis, the Safety and Sustainability Department’s 2023 deliverables include the development of tools, resources, and forums for information-sharing to support continuous improvement in safety and sustainability, and the identification of data and statistics needed to support safety goals.


To meet these goals, we rely on our member working groups and strategic partnerships. These forums and connections allow us to effect real, positive change for our mariners that would not be possible without cooperation.


When you ask yourself what your professional goals are, we hope they include staying involved in AWO’s working groups, and we encourage you to introduce new members from your team and the industry to the many opportunities an AWO membership includes. Our goals are your goals, and we look forward to continuing to work with you in 2023.


AWO Safety Committees’ Winter Meeting Returns In-Person in Houston

The AWO Interregion and Coastal Safety Committees’ Winter Meeting is fast approaching! This will be the first in-person winter meeting since 2020, and we are excited to host it in a hub for our industry: Houston, Texas. We will have a welcome reception on the evening of February 27, followed by subcommittee meetings the morning of February 28, and our main event, the Safety Committees’ Meeting, will be the afternoon of February 28 through the morning of March 1. Plan to stay with us through March 2 for the Midwest, Ohio Valley, and Southern Regions’ Combined Meeting and a tour of a local facility. The Safety Committees’ tentative schedule and meeting topics are listed below!
February 28th
Tankering and Barge Operations Subcommittee Meeting subcommittee members only
Safety Leadership Advisory Panel Meeting subcommittee members only
February 28th
Distracted Operations Subcommittee training document presentation
Tankermen Safety Presentation discussing a day in the life of a tankerman
Mariner Wellness Discussion with SCI opportunities and initiatives for 2023
Future of Training Panel Presentation featuring leading industry partners
March 1st
Electronic Charting Discussion Rosepoint and regulatory partners discuss ECS and the sunsetting of paper charts
Navigation Safety discussion of Incidents involving moveable bridges with industry & regulatory partners
Navigation Training with Technology opportunity to test a cloud-based simulator
Lessons Learned from Marine Accidents featuring the NTSB
And much, much more!
For more information about the event or to register, please visit the AWO Events webpage. We look forward to seeing you in Texas! 
Safety Professionals’ Corner
Hannah Lewis is Golding Barge Line’s Health and Safety Director. Based out of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Hannah is an active member of WIMOS, AWO’s Distracted Operations Subcommittee, and AWO’s Falls Overboard Subcommittee. She graduated from the University of Louisiana Monroe in 2013 with a BS in Psychology, and after getting married in 2014, Vicksburg became her home.

Hannah began her career with Golding Barge Line in December 2016 as receptionist. Over the past five years, she has learned and grown by accepting opportunities to work in positions such as HR Administrator, Safety Administrator, and now, Health and Safety Director. “Being a part of Golding Barge Line has been a dream and an answered prayer. I am thankful to have a wonderful husband, be a mama to a precious little girl, and have a soul eager to travel the world!”

What are your safety program priorities for 2023?

From a thousand-foot view, our safety priorities at Golding Barge Line are to encourage and strive for zero incidents and injuries by engaging the crews to take ownership of their safety. I believe this goal is attainable as we are openly communicating the hazards prior to starting each watch or job task and looking out for one another. When we apply the right training techniques, fuel the driven and passionate mariner with positive feedback and recognition, and put in the effort to achieve a safe workplace, we will see our safety culture evolve with outstanding results.

Golding Barge Line continues to focus on being proactive in our incident response. Having a reactive incident response is an element of this industry that we are trained on, drilled on, and unfortunately remembered by. If we are reacting, that means the incident has already occurred; what we want at GBL is to prevent that incident from having the chance to occur. A proactive response is challenging – it takes creativity, patience, teamwork, and sometimes a “sales pitch.” However, once proactive actions are proven successful, our mariners take notice, allowing the culture to evolve to a higher standard. It is the most rewarding aspect for our mariners, at least from my point of view. In the last few years our team has focused on near miss submissions. We have learned what they are, how they work, how to show their impact and how to continually use them to our advantage. I am thoroughly impressed with and thankful for our team’s participation in the near miss program – and that is the catalyst that fuels our next step: Safety Observations. This year we are going to take a deep dive into this proactive aspect of safety. Safety Observations are passive situations that have the potential to become a hazard. These situations will be identified by crew members who view their work tasks through “safety vision.” Like near misses, it will take practice, learning moments, and conversations, but it will also reap great benefits. I am excited to see what we will accomplish this year!

What new training or safety tools do you look forward to using or learning more about?

When your mariners are scattered throughout the inland waterways, identifying resources and locations to train our mariners is an accomplishment all on its own. We are very fortunate as an industry to have many options to help train our mariners at every phase of their career. I am looking forward to continuing our partnership with the Seamen’s Church Institute, our local community college, and researching other options for the future. Additionally, we are partnering with a company that provides a database for reports, submissions, live statistical data, current trends, and resource information at the click of a button. Giving the crews a data-driven visual to look at our performance is key to keeping them informed. I believe we can all relate to letting go of manual data entry and embracing the technology we now have available. We are convinced that easy access to real-time statistics from our safety observations, near misses, and lessons learned will have a positive and measurable effect on the safety of our mariners.

What is something you’d like to share about our industry, or advice you’d give to someone considering maritime transportation as a career?

The maritime industry is a hidden gem in this world. We know it is massive, our mariners and their families know it is massive, and yet there are still so many opportunities to educate and invite individuals into this industry. If you have the opportunity to join the maritime industry, my advice would be to take it! There is no stagnation, there are new opportunities and experiences every day. The networking that takes place during industry meetings and gatherings creates not only career lifelines but also friendships. For me, I found a career and family in this industry. It is encouraging to have ownership that supports and challenges us and holds us to high expectations. It is a fulfillment to work with coworkers that are also friends. It is also pure joy to gather with our families, personally raise my own family, and do life together. I truly love my Golding Barge Line family; I can’t imagine a more satisfying career!


Recent NTSB Incident Investigations

INCIDENT: On June 25, 2021, at approximately 0245, the offshore supply vessel Elliot Cheramie struck an unmanned oil and gas platform 77 miles southwest of Port Fourchon, Louisiana. The Elliot Cheramie had four crew and five passengers onboard, and the allision resulted in four reported injuries and $362,814.00 of damage to the vessel, platform, and pipeline.
The vessel employed a 12-hour watch schedule, rotating at noon and midnight. The Mate, who had taken over command of the vessel when his watch began at midnight, stated that he was “more tired than usual” after conducting re-supply activities in port the previous afternoon. In his statement, he admitted that he must have fallen asleep, waking up to see the platform “dead ahead.” He pulled back on both engine throttles, but “it was too late.” The vessel was not fitted with a bridge navigational watch alarm system, which would have sounded an audible alarm if motion was not detected in the wheelhouse for a specified time.
Through their investigation, the NTSB recorded notes on the Mate’s work/rest history for the four days leading up to the casualty. This revealed a pattern of non-conformity with company fatigue mitigation policy that directed licensed personnel to work no more than 12 hours per 24-hour period and required licensed personnel to “notify their supervisor if fatigued to the point of not being able to perform work duties safely.”
LESSONS LEARNED: The NTSB identified the probable cause of the incident as the owner/operator’s failure to adhere to their 12-hour work hour limit policy, which led to the fatigued mate falling asleep while on watch. This is in line with numerous NTSB investigations of commercial vessel casualties where crew fatigue was a significant causal and contributing factor. The NTSB concluded, “Company operational policies and requirements should incorporate and follow fatigue management best practices to ensure that crewmembers receive enough rest to adequately perform navigational, lookout, engineering, and other watch stander duties.”
  1. Review your fatigue management or crew endurance policy to be sure it meets the standards of regulation and best practice.
  2. Ensure your mariners feel confident reporting fatigue to their supervisor, communicate the responsibility every mariner has to be on the lookout for signs of fatigue in their co-workers, and ensure a culture of reporting fatigue and other factors affecting fitness for duty is supported by every level of management.
  3. Refer to AWO’s Guide to Developing a Fatigue Risk Management Plan for more suggested policies and procedures, mitigation measures, and resources for supporting a healthy work-rest schedule.
A full list of NTSB reports and open investigations can be found on the NTSB's Investigations website.
A Recipe for a Healthier You
Quick Pasta & Veggies Recipe
This heart-healthy pasta recipe is quick and easy to put together! Use the tips below to make this more versatile based on your personal taste. Adapted from
8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 16-ounce package frozen broccoli florets
1/3 cup freshly grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
1 16-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Before you begin: Wash your hands
  1. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the package directions.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over low heat.
  3. Add the garlic and sauté 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to fully release into the oil.
  4. Add the broccoli, beans, pepper, 3 tablespoons water, and salt.
  5. Cover and adjust heat to medium. Steam, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes, or until the broccoli is hot and the pepper is crisp tender.
  6. Toss the pasta with the vegetables. Top with the Parmesan cheese and fresh pepper.
  • Use whole wheat pasta, or a high-protein and high-fiber pasta like Banza penne.
  • Don’t like garbanzo beans? Swap for sliced Italian chicken sausage or another lean protein like chicken.
  • For a spicier flavor, add red pepper flakes.
  • Swap the veggies – sauteed spinach or asparagus would be great in this recipe!
AWO is invested in the wellness of our maritime family. Caitlin Kidd, AWO’s Manager - Membership & Digital Operations, is also a nutrition expert. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics from the University of Northern Colorado and is passionate about helping others develop healthy habits through sharing the positive impact of good nutrition and making quality dietary choices. Do you have a recipe or an idea for a healthy meal? Share it with Caitlin by sending it to – you could be included in a future newsletter!
Near Miss Highlights Dangers of Railroad Bridge Transits
A recent near miss on the Tombigbee River, a near-allision between a pushboat and a railroad lift bridge, highlights the danger of transiting moveable railroad bridges. The safe operation of most railroad bridges relies on railroad employees who very seldom are dedicated to bridge operation, leading to greater risk of a near miss or allision if an employee is over-tasked or under-trained. AWO is committed to improving navigation safety and we will be examining bridge allision incidents and near misses with members, the Coast Guard, and other experts during our upcoming Safety Committees’ Winter Meeting on February 28 and March 1.
While downbound on the Black Warrior Tombigbee River with eight loaded coal barges on a clear sunny day, the captain of the pushboat approached the Meridian and Bigbee Railroad Bridge (MNBR), a lift bridge that remains open to navigation except during periods when it is closed for the passage of rail traffic.
The bridge opening or closing is operated by a railroad crewmember who is authorized by regulation to lower the bridge for rail crossings only after visually checking traffic, announcing on VHF channel 16 that the bridge will be lowered, waiting two minutes, then lowering the bridge.
Despite the pushboat being within sight of the bridge, the captain observed the bridge beginning to lower. Quickly putting the vessel in full astern, the captain sounded his horn, which alerted the railroad employee of the vessel’s presence. The railroad employee reversed the lowering action, returning the bridge to the full-open position prior to the vessel entering the span. Throughout the transit, the vessel monitored VHF channel 13 and 16.
Possible Impacts of this Event:
  • Injury or death in the case of an allision.
  • Unintentional cargo release leading to an environmental incident.
  • Property damage and loss of commerce due to channel obstruction.
Facts & Reports:
  • The near miss was reported as soon as the vessel was in a safe position.
  • The shoreside manager initiated an investigation shortly after receiving the initial report, a vital step to ensure a thorough investigation.
  • The operator shared this near miss with the USCG Bridge Unit and AWO. Sharing can prevent future incidents by ensuring there is a record of the event.
Lessons Learned & Future Risk Mitigation:
  • Near misses can raise awareness of risk, inform risk assessments and voyage plans, and alert other vessels that transit the area to potential danger.
  • Following a near miss, review company procedures and gather recommendations for changes from a broad group of individuals to reduce risk of a future event.
  • Consider including high value near misses in company communications, simulations, and safety meetings.
  • Sharing incidents and near misses with AWO and the Coast Guard helps support advocacy related to unreasonable obstructions to navigation. It should be encouraged.
A Global Perspective on Falls Overboard:
Falls overboard continue to be a leading cause of towing vessel crew fatalities. To address this, AWO has formed a working group to identify the root causes of falls overboard incidents, explore mitigation measures, and produce tools and strategies that may be employed to prevent incidents in the future.
This deadly problem is not constrained to U.S. waterways. Across the global maritime industry, industry groups and regulatory bodies strive to provide the tools and resources mariners need to prevent and respond to falls to water. A recent great example published by the British Tugowners Association is titled Recovery of Persons in Water Guide to Good Practice for Small Vessels and includes examples of procedures that are deployable regardless of your Port of Call.
Sustainability Tips: Easy-to-Implement Tips for Your Sustainability Journey
AWO Sustainability Task Force Members Tour Caterpillar
Early in the new year, Rick Iuliucci, Vice President of Operations of Vane Brothers Company and Vice Chair of AWO’s Board of Directors, organized a tour of Caterpillar’s manufacturing facility and Tech Center in Illinois for Sustainability Task Force members.
Participants began the first day of the tour at the Large Engine Center in Lafayette, where Caterpillar manufactures all of the 3500-series engines that are used in the United States. The group saw first-hand how a cast steel block is transformed into a finished machine during a guided tour of the production floor. After the tour, members were invited to a round of discussion about the current 3500 series and planned modifications that can increase the efficiency of the engine.
The second day of the tour began a few hours east at the Tech Center in Peoria, which is the hub of Caterpillar’s R&D efforts and where they are working on a number of projects involving alternative fuels, electrification, and other future technologies for their marine markets. After a robust conversation about the benefits and potential drawbacks of alternative fuels, participants toured the “Test Cell” where alternative fuel-powered engines were being tested by engineers who recorded data on greenhouse gas emissions, power ratios, and many other valuable data points. The demonstrations were followed by a tour and discussion of Caterpillar’s electric-powered engines and storage systems, including the Motor-Generator Unit (MGU) and the “Tower of Power”, Caterpillar’s Mobile Charger designed to quickly recharge the huge battery power plants required for electric vessels.
The jam-packed two-day tour was a great opportunity to learn about the energy transition from a global leader in the engine manufacturing industry. AWO is thankful to Caterpillar and looks forward to developing more opportunities for our members to learn from each other as we work together to enhance the sustainability of the transportation sector.
If you would like to learn more, please contact
Subcommittee News
Tankering and Barge Operations Subcommittee
Members of the Tankering and Barge Operations Subcommittee are looking forward to holding our first meeting of 2023 on February 28 at the AWO Safety Committees’ Winter Meeting in Houston. We will discuss 2023 work plans to address safety challenges faced by tankermen, provide updates on strategic partnerships that the Steering Committee has been developing with connected associations such as ILTA, and kick off the search for this year’s Annual Safety Award winner, which will be announced at the Summer Meeting in St. Louis on August 16-17.
In 2022, the Subcommittee updated its Tank Barge Access & Egress Best Practices, available in the AWO Resource Library; awarded AWO affiliate member ERL Inc. the subcommittee's third Annual Safety Award for the creation and testing of its EverGreen Seal; thanked the Subcommittee’s founding Chair Jim Fletcher of Team Services and welcomed our new Chair Josh Dixon of PSC Group.
If you would like to participate in this subcommittee, please email
Falls Overboard Subcommittee
AWO’s Falls Overboard Subcommittee (FOB) is made up of towing vessel and barge operators and affiliate members with an interest in developing real-world solutions to address this leading cause of crew fatalities in the tugboat, towboat, and barge industry.
Informed by a 10-year survey of member incidents that resulted in, or contributed to, a person falling in the water – which highlighted the “hot spots” on a vessel that were most likely to be the site of a fall overboard event – AWO and FOB Chairs Patrick Cheramie of Kirby Inland Marine and Michiel Versteeg of Saltchuk Marine created an outline of recommended risk controls that FOB members have reviewed, using their knowledge and experience to ensure the recommendations are actionable and practical for operators.
The group met in January to complete the review of the outline. Meetings will be scheduled periodically over the first two quarters of 2023 to guide the drafting of the report and continue to index the standards, policies, tools, and equipment that may be used to mitigate the risk of falls from an unguarded edge of a barge.
If you would like to participate in this subcommittee, please email
Distracted Operations Subcommittee
The Distracted Operations Subcommittee is working to identify sources of distraction and develop tools to mitigate the risk of distractions as a contributing factor in marine casualties. Currently, the committee has two lines of effort:
  1. Team Alpha is working to develop training documents for new hire mariners, focusing on an introduction to common distractions, ways to prioritize work, and tools to mitigate the effects of distraction.
  1. Team Bravo published Sterile Wheelhouse Guidance for Tugboat and Towboat Companies in September; it is available in the AWO Resource Library.
When complete, Team Alpha and Team Bravo’s guidance will be compiled in a Guide to Mitigating Distracted Operations. If you would like to participate in this subcommittee, please email
SSRP – We Need Your input!

The Safety Statistics Reporting Program is dependent on full participation by all eligible members of AWO. This includes any carrier members that are responsible for the operation of vessel crews. Please visit the Safety Statistics Reporting Program website and enter your data for the fourth quarter of 2022, 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 feel free to contact me at or (504) 417-2136.