Navigating to Zero - January 2024

AWO Safety and Combined Regions Meeting February 21-23 in New Orleans
The AWO Interregion and Coastal Safety Committees’ Winter Meeting is fast approaching! This year’s winter meeting will be held in temperate New Orleans, hopefully an inviting break from the cold many of you have endured this season. Plan to stay through Friday morning for the Combined Annual Meeting of the Midwest, Ohio Valley, and Southern regions that immediately follows. Registration for the meeting and hotel block is open now on the AWO website, and we look forward to seeing you in the Big Easy!
February 21st
Tankering and Barge Operations Subcommittee Meeting
Subcommittee members only
Safety Leadership Advisory Panel Meeting
Subcommittee members only
February 21st
JVAT Assurance
Workplace Wellbeing Programs Don’t Work – JVAT will discuss interventions that do work and how to use mental fitness to maximize RoI
Jeff Slesinger and Marine Learning Systems
Leadership - The Undervalued Keystone to the Towing Industry’s Workforce Solutions
HERO Awards
Hero Award Winner Presentation
American Equity Underwriters
Safety Moment
Coast Guard Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis
Incident investigations and casualty data
February 22nd
AWO Safety Statistics Reporting Program
Improvements and updates to AWO data collection
Lessons Learned Presentations
Incident and near miss lessons learned
Barge Innovations Panel
Innovative equipment for barges that increases efficiency and reduces risk
Signal Mutual
Safety Moment
Subcommittee reports
Member-led discussions on AWO safety committee work
And much more!
To learn more, visit AWO events page or contact
Safety Professional Spotlight
Patrick Cheramie - Director of Safety and Training at American Commercial Barge Line (ACBL)
Patrick took the reins as Director of Safety and Training at ACBL in May of 2023, bringing with him more than a decade of HSE experience in the maritime and oil and gas industries. In addition, he is active on industry boards, which include AWO’s Safety Leadership Advisory Panel and AWO’s Fall Overboard Subcommittee, of which he is co-chair. Patrick previously served as the Manager of Safety at Kirby Inland Marine. Patrick lives in New Orleans, LA, with his wife Alex, and two children Cooper (5) and Sophia (2).
Can you talk about ACBL culture and share an example of how it keeps your organization safe?
ACBL’s vision is to be the trusted leader in marine transportation. To achieve that vision, ACBL has a set of core values we call IMPACT (Integrity, Mutual Care, Personal Responsibility, Agility, Customer Focus, and Teamwork). We approach every decision we make, action plan we create, or initiative we carry out with this set of core values in mind.
Being new to the organization, it’s been amazing to see the collaboration that takes place on a day-to-day basis, and the amount of outreach that takes place from shore to vessel and vice-versa is impressive. One of the primary pillars to the success of any organization is effective communication, and listening to what our mariners are telling us and implementing change through their contributions and ownership is vital to improving safety culture.
Can you share some milestones you achieved with ACBL’s safety program in 2023 and discuss any new or continuing initiatives ACBL is considering in 2024?
The organization is in the middle of a digital transformation which will tie multiple systems together. HSE is a large part of the project, and we’re aiming to gain some efficiencies. One of the things we’ve been able to achieve in 2023 is to use technology and enhance existing systems to provide us real-time and predictive analytics. Through this we’ve been able to better forecast future trends by looking at past results and create focused initiatives to get ahead of the curve. In a short time, we’ve been successful in keeping our team members, the environment, and our equipment safe. As a result, we’ve achieved and surpassed multiple enterprise safety goals set in 2023.
In 2024, we are in the early stages of redeveloping our operational training program. The key objectives are greater application of skill, career development and team member retention. We have created a career progression map which illustrates an entire career flow at ACBL. From day one, a newly hired team member will be able to visibly see the different paths he or she can take in a career at ACBL along with the training/development steps necessary to achieve that goal. We believe enhancing skills and illustrating the path for advancement will increase retention.
I’m inspired and invigorated to be a part of this industry, and excited for its future. I appreciate AWO’s leadership and advocacy in ensuring the maritime industry is at the forefront of safety, innovation and sustainability.
You have been highly successful in your maritime career! Can you share the story of how you came to the maritime industry, and do you have advice for someone who is considering maritime transportation as a career?
The maritime industry is in my blood. As a kid, I remember visiting and riding up and down Bayou Lafourche on my dad’s towboat (I don’t think that’s allowed anymore). I know the immense sacrifices he and his peers made - and continue to make - to provide for their families. It’s an honor for me to be of service to this industry and our mariners. My post-college career began in upstream oil and gas safety and operations. I spent many days and nights in the Gulf of Mexico, Mid-Continent shale formations, and the Northern Slope of Alaska supporting the safety of employees and operations alike. After a move to Houston, TX, in 2016, I pivoted into the maritime industry when I was hired by Kirby Inland Marine to manage the safety group. I spent nearly seven years there until joining ACBL in May of 2023.
My personal core value is simple… “Do the right thing.” I ask a ton of questions and constantly strive to learn. If I could give advice, it would be to never stop learning. Our industry is small, but mighty. If anyone is considering beginning a career in the maritime industry, I’d recommend that you immerse yourself – get out on the water and see the operations, ask questions, and sincerely listen to the answers you get.
MARAD Publishes Winter Safety Corner Newsletter
The Maritime Administration released its winter Safety Corner newsletter, featuring information on winter weather, confined space entry attendants, respiratory terminology and cartridge color codes, and a calendar of events for 2024. A full copy of the newsletter is available in the AWO Resources Library.
OSHA Releases Proposed Standard for Emergency Responders
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released a proposal to update and expand its existing “Fire Brigades” standard for emergency responders, including firefighters, emergency medical service providers and technical search and rescue workers. OSHA does not have the authority to set standards for firefighting and other emergency response activities for mariners on Coast Guard-inspected vessels, and the proposed rule does not apply to shipyard fire brigades, activities covered by OSHA’s “Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response” (HAZWOPER) standard, or employers responding to natural disasters or transportation incidents. As such, AWO does not anticipate any impacts to member companies. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact
OSHA Publishes Safety Bulletin on Safety Helmets and Hard Hats
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not set or enforce safety standards for mariners on Coast Guard-inspected vessels; however, certain Coast Guard regulations incorporate OSHA standards by reference for specific applications, including 46 CFR 140.505(d)(2), related to Personal Protective Equipment such as hard hats and safety helmets.
Recently, OSHA published a Safety and Health Information Bulletin exploring the use of safety helmets in place of hard hats, titled Head Protection: Safety Helmets in the Workplace. The Bulletin details the difference between hard hats and safety helmets, highlighting materials used in manufacture of each, attachments that may provide added protection for specific hazards, and the difference in how the PPE must be worn, including the chin strap required for safety helmets. AWO encourages members that utilize head protection to review the Bulletin if considering safety helmets in place of hard hats. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact
Towing Industry Pushes Through Record Low Temperatures
The country has experienced a cold snap that is breaking long-standing record lows in several areas. AWO commends the work of the dedicated men and women of the tugboat, towboat and barge industry who are working through these tough conditions to keep vital maritime commerce moving.
Review cold weather safety and read up on how to prevent related injuries with OSHA’s Protecting Workers from Cold Stress publication. Thank you to all members who submitted photos!
Healthy Eating Starts with Understanding How to Read a Food Label
Reading a food label, or the Nutrition Facts, is an important part of maintaining a healthy diet. Here are some key things to look out for when shopping for food:
  • Servings and serving size: the recommended amount to eat and the number of total servings in the container (based on the serving size). Not all food packages are one serving, and the recommended serving size can be much smaller than you think.
  • Calories: the number of calories in a single serving. Again, this is serving size-based, not the size of the container.
  • Total fat, total carbohydrates, and protein: these are macronutrients, and all are important parts of a healthy diet.
    • Tip: take note of trans fat amounts, as these fats are difficult for your digestive system to break down and increase risk of cardiovascular disease. Also note the amount of added sugar and look for foods with low or zero added sugar. Added sugars can contribute to high blood glucose levels and diabetes.
  • Sodium: how much salt is in a food. Look for foods that have less than 25% of the daily recommended sodium intake to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Watch this video from the American Heart Association for a quick overview.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact Caitlin Kidd by emailing
American Waterways HERO Award Winners – December 2023 & January 2024
The American Waterways Honor & Excellence in Rescue Operations (HERO) Award recognizes rescues undertaken by AWO member company employees that demonstrate selflessness, skill, and bravery. AWO is honored to recognize mariners for the great things they are doing every day to protect themselves, their crews, the environment, and the communities in which they operate.
AWO was excited to announce a sponsor for the winners of the award at last year’s Safety Committees’ Summer Meeting. 360 Coverage Pros and Berkley Offshore now offer a one-year complimentary Marine License & Professional Liability Insurance policy to all crew members recognized with the award. Details about how to submit a nomination for the American Waterways HERO Award and the submission form can be found on the AWO website.
Please help us thank and shine a spotlight on our industry’s heroic mariners by sending in a nomination! Congratulations to these recent recipients of the American Waterways HERO Award:
Date of Event
Marquette Transportation
C. Michael Reeves
Crescent Marine Towing
M/V Captain Walter
Strategic Towing Services, LLC
Miss Carter W
AWO High Potential Learning Value Near Miss
Near Miss and Stop Work events are leading indicators that provide vessel operators with an opportunity to identify and address weaknesses in a safety management system before a hazardous condition or lack of procedure contributes to an injury or incident.
We are highlighting recent High Potential Learning Value Near Misses submitted voluntarily by AWO members. To submit your own Near Miss or Stop Work event, please use this form. To see all published High Value Near Misses, please visit the AWO Resources website:
MEMBER-SUBMITTED NEAR MISS 24-01: Dangerous Line Handling Event and Unsafe Crossing of a Gap While Tow is Underway
A towboat pushing two barges in doubled-up configuration was shifting to better align barge and dock manifolds in preparation to transfer cargo at a facility at Southwest Pass, Louisiana. The tow was still under power and making way when the shore tankerman grabbed a line and jumped from the barge to a piling cluster. The deckhand saw the tankerman jumping onto a piling cluster with a line and exercised Stop Work Responsibility by hailing the Wheelman on Watch and calling on the tankerman to stop his actions and return to the barge. Once the shore tankerman was safe aboard the barge, the deckhand and wheelman met with the individual to discuss safe line throwing techniques and never to jump off a barge to a piling cluster or dock.
  1. Fall Overboard
  2. Death
  3. Crushing Injury
  4. Breach of Security Incident
  1. Keep watch over all crew and third-party activities when people are onboard your tow.
  2. Never jump or cross a gap while the tow is still underway.
  3. Communicate and empower deckhand/tankerman to initiate Stop Work Responsibility immediately upon recognition of unsafe action/condition.
  4. Always throw a line to the piling cluster, kevel, etc.
  5. Consider training programs for safe line handling to promote proper technique for throwing lines, reducing the likelihood of a crewmember making a dangerous choice to cross the gap between a barge and terminal/facility before it is safe to move across.
BSEE Safety Alerts
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) issues safety alerts to inform the offshore energy industry of the circumstances surrounding an incident or a near miss. These alerts also contain recommendations designed to help prevent the recurrence of similar incidents on the Outer Continental Shelf. While the offshore environment is unique, BSEE’s safety alerts often cover similar conditions and risk profiles as those seen by AWO members working on near coastal, inland, and Great Lakes vessels.
The summaries and lessons learned have been shortened and modified to be more applicable to tugboat, towboat and barge operators. For the original reports and details, visit the BSEE website.
In recent months BSEE observed a trend of safety incidents that occurred while personnel conducted tank cleaning operations in confined spaces. Two incidents are included in the BSEE safety alert and summarized here:
Description of Incident #1: The first incident occurred while a worker was vacuuming, and the nozzle became stuck inside the tank. To free the nozzle, the worker—who was wearing a respirator with organic filters specifically used for working outside the tank—fully entered the tank, where he fell ill.
Result: Coworkers found the worker inside the tank lying under the fluid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) was administered to revive the worker. Investigation revealed that Stop Work Authority (SWA) was not invoked.
Lessons Learned:
  1. Regular training must be conducted to instruct workers on confined space entry.
  2. X-braces can be used to create a personnel barrier at the entrance to a confined space.
  3. Managers should ensure confined space procedures are reviewed before every job.
  4. Safety stand downs should be used to quickly educate an entire team or company about an incident and the steps being taken to prevent injuries and fatalities.
Description of Incident #2: A worker conducting tank cleaning operations began to feel ill and tried to exit a confined space (tank). While attempting to exit, the worker felt he was going to pass out, but did not. Once outside, company first responders noted the worker was sweating profusely and slow to answer questions. Moments later, the worker passed out. Workers conducted CPR, which revived the worker before he was sent to be examined by a medical professional.
Result: Medical evaluation showed the worker had non-stress-induced cardiac arrythmia that may have contributed to the near-syncope episode.
Lessons Learned:
  1. OSHA provides requirements for working in confined spaces under 29 CFR § 1910.146 that should be followed closely before preparing procedures that govern confined space entry for a company’s employees.
  2. Review the American Waterways Operators guidance, and the standards developed by the American Petroleum Institute and the National Fire Protection Association standards for procedures to strip and clean tanks.
  3. Ensure all personnel understand what constitutes a confined space and confined space entry.
  4. Ensure a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) is in place and is discussed prior to starting work.
  5. Ensure the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn.
  6. Develop a rescue plan for extracting personnel unable to exit a confined space due to incapacitation or injury.
USCG Marine Safety Alert: Shipboard Crane Wire Rope Hazard Mitigation
A recent marine incident involved a shipboard crane while offloading a 69-ton wind turbine nacelle. The wire rope used in hoisting broke, causing the load to fall and damage the vessel, resulting in cargo loss. No personnel were injured, but the potential for injury was high. Investigation revealed wire rope failure due to corrosion and wear, even though it was within permitted service life.
Lessons Learned from the USCG
Cargo transfers with shipboard cranes are common, and while wire rope failures are rare, the consequences are severe. Industry standards suggest a ten-year service life, but corrosion and fatigue can limit suitability. Robust inspection and testing are crucial, including periodic load tests, required for class vessels every 5 years. Ships subject to SOLAS are facing new regulations for onboard lifting appliances that include design, installation, testing, inspection, and documentation requirements. Lifting appliances on all vessels must at least have a permanently marked safe working load (SWL).
Crane Wire Failure on Cargo Ship Thorco Basilisk
(from NTSB report MIR-23-26)
Casualty type
Ship/Equipment/Cargo Damage
Greensport Terminal, Houston Ship Channel, near Houston, Texas
1440 Central Standard Time
Property damage
$3 - $5 million est.
Environmental damage
Summary of USCG recommendations:
  1. Implement increased load testing to verify wire rope integrity between mandated 5-year load tests.
  2. Provide pressure lubricating devices to vessels with shipboard cranes.
  3. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for crane and wire rope testing and replacement.
  4. Consider replacing wire ropes subject to corrosion at increments less than 5 years.
  5. Train all crane operators and personnel working near cranes in maintenance and best practices for working near suspended loads.
  6. Implement increased wire rope visual inspection frequency.
For the full Coast Guard report, visit the USCG Safety Alerts Website.
The NTSB also investigated the crane wire failure on Cargo Ship Thorco Basilisk:
Featuring the same incident that was subject to the Coast Guard investigation, the NTSB investigated the failure of the hoisting wire rope aboard the Cargo Ship Thorco Basilisk. Findings and Lessons Learned match the Coast Guard’s Safety Alert. The full NTSB report can be found on the NTSB website.
NTSB Investigation: Engine Room Fire Aboard Cargo Vessel Endo Breeze
Engine Room Fire Aboard Tank Vessel Endo Breeze
Casualty type
Raritan Bay West Reach Channel, Raritan Bay, New Jersey
1913 Eastern Daylight Time
Property damage
$1.2 million est.
Environmental damage
A misaligned fuel injection pump was determined as the cause of the fire that led to an engine room fire on the Tanker Endo Breeze. Investigators determined that the injector pump, which had been replaced the day before the incident, had fractured, leading to a high-pressure fuel spray that ignited off the engine exhaust components. Investigators determined through crew interviews and component analysis that the part had failed due to a failure to tighten bolts in the order recommended by the manufacturer. The engineering team did follow proper testing procedure after installation; however, the pressure tests of the system were not conducted with a load on the engine. The following day, when the ship was outbound and turned up to full throttle, the pressure on the misaligned part was enough to cause a failure of the banjo tube, which was bent and fractured due to the misalignment caused by the improper bolt tightening sequence. The fire was contained in the engine room thanks to the crew’s quick response in activating fuel pump shutoffs and ventilation shutdowns. These measures restricted the spread of the fire by limiting oxygen and fuel to the main engine room. Then, the chief engineer’s quick activation of the ship’s fixed CO2 system effectively extinguished the fire. Additionally, the crew kept the engine room sealed until the fire was confirmed to be out, which prevented reflash.
For the full report, visit the NTSB website.
Lessons Learned from the NTSB:
The NTSB attributed this fire to the crew’s failure to follow manufacturer’s instructions for parts replacement and bolt tightening sequence. It is critical to follow manufacturer’s instructions when working with high-pressure diesel fuel systems.
AWO Observations:
The Bad:
  • The engineer replaced the pump following the company procedure and after the chief engineer gave approval. The maintenance was tested in accordance with procedure and all systems seemed to be in good working order. The failure that led to this expensive and dangerous fire was due to a slight deviation from the manufacturer’s recommended procedure, which illustrates the criticality of ensuring each step of a procedure is followed as written.
The Good:
  • The crew noticed the smell of smoke and the incipient fire quickly and followed emergency response procedures to the letter. This indicates a robust safety training and drill program that likely prevented significant added damage to the vessel and cargo and spared the crew from injury or death.
SSRP – We Need Your Input!
The value of AWO’s Safety Statistics Reporting Program depends on the full participation of all eligible members. This includes carrier members who employ or are responsible for vessel crews in their operations. 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 feel free to contact
AWO Now Accepting Nominations for Tankering & Barge Operations Subcommittee Safety Award
AWO’s Tankering & Barge Operations Subcommittee is dedicated to improving the safety of barge tankering operations through targeted initiatives that are identified by industry and informed by collaboration with stakeholders. It has been instrumental in raising awareness of best practices and advocating for innovative solutions to improve workplace safety for tankermen.
The Subcommittee is now accepting nominations for its 2023-2024 Safety Award. AWO encourages all industry stakeholders to nominate individuals, organizations, companies, or facilities that have improved equipment, personnel, and/or processes to enhance safety of those involved in cargo transfer operations. All nominations should include a description of the specific improvement made and details about how it enhances tankerman safety. Examples of improvement areas include, but are not limited to:
Vessel to shore communications
Flow rate controls
Fall overboard & slip/trip/fall prevention
Line clearing operations
Transfer equipment handling
Exceptional safety contributions