Navigating to Zero - March 2024

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, how 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 Mike Breslin.
Sharing Information to Reduce Waterways Incidents – AWO Joins Panel at National Harbor Safety Committee Conference
AWO participated in a robust discussion on the importance of information-sharing to improve harbor safety with senior Coast Guard and Harbor Safety Committee leadership at the National Harbor Safety Committee Conference on March 21 in Chicago. Mike Breslin, AWO Director of Safety and Sustainability, was a featured panelist alongside Harbor Safety Committee leadership and representatives from the Passenger Vessel Association and th U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd).
Panelists spoke to the challenges of collecting and sharing lessons learned on a national scale, citing model programs such as the AWO Safety Statistics Reporting Program and MarAd's SafeMTS, a voluntary program that collects near misses from inland and near coastal maritime operators.
To learn more about the panel and the Harbor Safety Committees’ development of a steering committee to guide the formation of the national information-sharing program, please contact Mike Breslin.
Recreational Boater Safety Working Group: Addressing a Multiuse Marine Transportation System
AWO’s Safety Leadership Advisory Panel is establishing a working group to make recommendations and develop resources to reduce the risk of incidents on the multiuse waterways where commercial vessels and recreational boaters meet. Addressing the risks of congested waterways has never been more urgent. Novel recreational vessels, increased numbers of human-powered craft such as kayaks and paddleboards, and larger ships and tows are meeting with greater frequency and creating risks that were not considered just a few years ago.
AWO has redesigned our Lifelines Brochure with information about the tugboat, towboat and barge industry to aid the Working Group in initial outreach. We are also exploring opportunities for partnership and collaboration with Harbor Safety Committees, the Coast Guard, other maritime associations, and safety organizations to help us meet our goal of reducing the risk of incidents on the MTS.
The Working Group’s first meeting will be held virtually on April 11, 2024, from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm Eastern Time. If you would like to join the Working Group or would like more information about this initiative, please fill out this form or contact the AWO Safety Department.
AWO Releases Video Highlighting Tugboat, Towboat and Barge Industry’s Commitment to Safety
AWO has produced a new video highlighting the tugboat, towboat and barge industry's commitment to safety and its strong record as the safest mode of freight transportation.
The two-minute video, The Tugboat, Towboat and Barge Industry: Delivering Safety on America's Waterways, explains that the industry, while moving nearly 700 million tons of cargo each year, prioritizes the safety of mariners, communities, and the environment – all while boasting the lowest injury and fatality rate among major modes of freight transportation. The video also highlights the industry's strong, longstanding safety partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard and its commitment to continuous safety improvement.
AWO President & CEO Jennifer Carpenter commented in the accompanying press release: "For decades, AWO members have demonstrated their commitment to safety leadership – integrating it into their individual safety cultures, leading industry-wide initiatives and partnering with government and private sector stakeholders to safeguard human life and protect the marine environment. The tugboat, towboat and barge industry has consistently and enthusiastically worked to improve the safety environment for mariners and the communities we serve. We look forward to sharing this video far and wide as we continue to support our members in their safety journeys and the continuous improvement of safety, security, and environmental protection."
Safety Professional Spotlight – Maureen Hwang: Metropolitan Marine
Maureen Hwang serves as the General Manager for Operations, Safety, and Compliance at Metropolitan Marine Transportation Inc. Based in East Brunswick, NJ, she brings a wealth of experience from her previous roles at Kirby Offshore Marine and K-Sea Transportation Inc. to her role as General Manager. Her responsibilities cover critical aspects of the company’s operations, including the safe and efficient operation of vessels. Her dedication to mariner safety, knowledge of regulations, and vast experience in maritime transportation contributes to the continued success of the family-owned operation. 
Metropolitan Marine Transportation Inc. was founded in 1993 by Captain Paul Mahoney of Staten Island, New York. Captain Mahoney acquired the company’s first tugboat, the Pegasus, in 1998, and later added a second tugboat, the Normandy, in 2003. The company operates out of Staten Island, providing towing services, barge services, and ship assist services with its two vessels.
Can you talk about Metropolitan Marine Transportation Inc.’s culture and share an example of how it contributes to your safe operations?
MMT is a small, family-owned operation, where we treat our employees like family, and where we strive every day to stay safe and keep our fellow employees safe. Having small crews allows our employees to really get to know each other and look out for one another. We have seasoned employees who are tasked with training our new hires, and they take this responsibility very seriously. As a company, we are very proud of our safety record and work diligently to maintain safe operations year after year.
Can you share some milestones you achieved with MMT’s safety program in 2023 and discuss any new or continuing initiatives MMT is considering in 2024?
2023 was an extremely difficult year for all of us, losing our founder and President, Paul Mahoney. Although it was hard at times for all of us to remain focused on the job with what was going on shoreside, we continued to prioritize safety, and I’m happy to say it was another year free of injuries, spills, or incidents. It wasn’t easy at times, especially when I had to tell our guys that Paul had passed away. I worried that they would lose focus on the job and I thought about shutting down the operation for a few days after he passed to prevent any incidents due to distraction. Our employees would not hear of it. They insisted on continuing to work, and they remained focused on ensuring a safe and reliable operation for our customers, even through that time of sorrow. Once they told me they would continue to provide the same great service my dad had in the years before them, I knew our company was in good hands, and our crews would continue to stay safe and committed to incident-free operations.
2024 will mark the 30th anniversary of MMT, and we are committed to having this be another safe year, where our employees go home to their families in the same condition they arrived on our vessels. I always say, “10 fingers, 10 toes, no broken bones this hitch!” when I see everyone on crew change day.
This year, we are working hard at enhancing our near miss reporting. We discuss at length each near miss we report and where necessary, make changes to our Safety Management System or our operation if it is deemed appropriate. We are also focusing on risk-based operations, especially when we are in an environment in which we don’t normally operate. Both of our vessels will be drydocked this year, and we are really focusing on drydock safety briefings taking place each morning, pre-task conferences before any operations we are taking part in, and identifying situations where our Stop Work Authority may need to be used.
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?
I’m a third-generation mariner. My grandfather came to this country with the clothes on his back and 21 Irish pounds in his pocket. Upon arriving at Ellis Island, he found work at McAllister Towing of New York and our family legacy began. My dad spent his life on the water, starting at Circle Line and working his way to tugs. He worked tirelessly to become a docking pilot for Moran but was forced on the picket line in the strike of 1988. Never one to rest on his laurels, he and my mom began their own business and eventually acquired tugs of their own. I spent my entire life waiting for my dad to come home from his two-week hitch, working alongside him on our dinner yacht, and eventually as his partner in operations for MMT.
I credit my dad for my good fortune. I was able to spend many years working for K-Sea and Kirby Offshore Marine, which not only expanded my operational knowledge but also taught me the importance of a strong safety culture. These two companies gave me the tools and the experience to be able to come back to the family business, having been trained by some of the best shoreside managers in the industry.
During this time, I met a fellow mariner. We dated, got engaged, married, and have a beautiful daughter. Even though we are no longer working for the same employer, we still seek out each other’s counsel when faced with an unfamiliar situation. I believe having a strong network of other maritime professionals who can offer advice or assistance is a key to all our success. I look forward to my time spent at AWO functions. It gives me the opportunity to meet with and hear from other shoreside managers and professionals. These conversations benefit all of us!
My advice for someone considering a maritime career… There’s no better place in the world to earn a living than on the water. It’s a tough and long road, but worth it. I’m always so proud when one of our guys buys a house, a new car, an engagement ring, etc. Our hard work, as mariners and shoreside managers, helps provide good paying, steady work for men and women who are willing to work hard and stay safe. We always try to give opportunities to kids who didn’t attend college but have a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn. These are the two core tenets in my opinion for a mariner who’s just starting out.
I’ll always believe the world is best viewed from the wheelhouse windows.
Maritime Administration Publishes ‘MARAD Safety Corner’ - Spring 2024 Edition
The U.S. Maritime Administration released its Safety Corner newsletter with stories about preventing GPS interference; best practices for working with stored energy, including electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic and kinetic (gravitational); the Every Mariner Builds a Respectful Culture (EMBARC) standards; and more! Download your copy from AWO’s Resources Page.
AWO and OCIMF Hold First Meeting of Working Group to Update SIRE
AWO and OCIMF members and staff held a successful first working group meeting in Houston in March to begin updating the Barge Inspection and Vessel Inspection sheet for the SIRE program. Said Coastal Safety Committee Chair Jim Peschel of Vane Lines Bunkering, “We had a v ery productive two days reviewing the SIRE guidance and question set. Jamie Bigbie and I worked with the representatives from several oil majors, and they were collaborative and realistic about true operational conditions. By the end of the meeting, we eliminated a good amount of the redundant questions and added guidance to many of the questions that remain on the list.”
Mr. Peschel and Jamie Bigbie of Southern Devall, Interregion Safety Committee Chair, represent the interests of AWO members with the support of the newly formed AWO BIQ and BPQ Advisory working group, or ABBA. For more information about the meeting or to join ABBA, please contact the AWO Safety Department.
American Waterways HERO Award Winners – March 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 is excited to present winners of the Award with a valuable 360 Coverage Pros and Berkley Offshore one-year complimentary Marine License & Professional Liability Insurance policy, which will be offered 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 the March recipient of the American Waterways HERO Award:
Date of Event
Great Lakes Dredge and Dock
Captain Katie Weston
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 a sample of 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 24-04: Terminal Air Actuated Valve Malfunction
While preparing to relieve the Chief Mate for the midnight cargo watch, the Second Mate heard over the radio that there was a “banging noise” coming from the offshore side of the barge. The Second Mate came out early to assist as needed and saw the Chief Mate with a flashlight looking around the cargo tanks actively being discharged. When the crew inquired with the dock to ascertain the source of the noise, the dock operator noted that an air actuated valve on the dock was “acting up.” The crew returned to the barge, with the Second Mate manning the Emergency Stop and Tankerman standing by the manifold. Shortly after, the dock air actuated valve lost pressure and started to close automatically, with two barge cargo pumps online and discharging at full rate. The Second Mate pressed the Emergency Stop button to relieve manifold pressure and drained residual cargo back into the tanks before blocking in the manifold.
  1. Over-pressurization of cargo hoses and piping
  2. Damage to equipment
  3. Loss of containment
  1. Best practice is to report to watch early and ascertain the situation
  2. Emphasize the importance of diligent rounds during cargo operations
  3. Know the location and operation of critical safety equipment onboard your vessel
AWO High Potential Learning Value Near Miss – Terminal and Tankering-Related Issues
Building on AWO’s High Value Near Miss and Stop Work program, the Tankering and Barge Operations Subcommittee began collecting terminal-specific near misses using a modified near miss form on the AWO website. The following are two recent entries into the Terminal and Tankering High Value Near Miss program.
To submit your own Terminal and Tankering High Value Near Miss event, please use this form. To see all published High Value Near Misses, please visit the AWO Resources website:
MEMBER-SUBMITTED NEAR MI SS 24-01T: Unattended Crane During Hose Hook-Up
During the hose connection process at ITC DEER PARK the Tankerman noticed that the crane operator had walked away from the area to perform another task, leaving the crane controls unattended. His keen awareness to identify this and prompt decision to halt work prevented potential injury and damage.
Uncontrolled movement of the cargo hose which could lead to:
  1. Injury to the tankerman
  2. Damage to the barge
  3. Spill
  4. Crushing injury
  5. Breach of security incident
  1. Communications with shoreside were not well established. To ensure safety of transfers at a terminal, it is critically important for the shore and vessel tankermen to have established communication protocols.
  2. Training needs to be conducted on the procedure for hose connect and disconnect.
  3. Safety Personnel must be designated, and roles agreed to as part of the pre-transfer conference.
MEMBER-SUBMITTED NEAR MISS 24-02T: Communication Procedure for Flow Rate and Shutdown
During the loading operation at APEX PORT ALLEN the Tankerman requested the rate be reduced from 4500 barrels per hour to 2500 barrels per hour. The rate was reduced so the Tankerman could go into his top off phase. The barges were being loaded to max draft of 9’3”. The inside barge was completed so the flow was going to the outside barge. The tankerman gave the required notifications of 2 hours, 1 hour, 30 minutes and 5 minutes. He received an acknowledgement each time he notified the dock man.
When the Tankerman asked for the transfer to be shut down he did not receive any acknowledgement. He again asked for a shut down but did not receive a response. He then instructed the vessel Tankerman to open his barge up and take some of the flow into his #2 cargo tanks. At this point he directed his flow from the #3’s to the #2’s on his barge. He was still asking for shutdown but receiving no response. He then went to the header and began to close the header valve against the flow from the dock. Before the valve was closed the dock man responded and shut the transfer down. The time frame from the first request for shut down to actual shut down was approximately five minutes. The dock man gave no explanation for not answering the radio and shutting down the transfer when requested.
  1. Over-drafting the barge
  2. Over-filling the cargo tank
  3. Possible hose failure if the valve would have been shut against the flow
  4. Cargo exposure to the Tankerman and the environment had there been a release
  1. Although there was a plan in place, there should always be an emergency plan in place in the event the original plan fails.
  2. During the pre-transfer conference, discuss the plan of action in the event the transfer is not shut down when requested by the Tankerman.
Casualty type
Corpus Christi Ship Channel
1530 CST
Property damage
$6.9 million (est.)
Environ. damage
Oil Sheen 3 x 5 ft. (hydraulic)
On January 22, 2023, about 1530 local time, the tugboat Mark E. Kuebler and the tanker Nisalah collided while the tanker was transiting inbound in the Corpus Christi Ship Channel near Ingleside, Texas. The tugboat’s hull was breached, and the tanker’s propeller was damaged in the collision. The captain of the Mark E. Kuebler grounded the tugboat to prevent it from sinking, and, while aground, a small sheen of hydraulic oil was observed near the tugboat. The oil was recovered with absorbent pads. No injuries were reported. Damage to the Mark E. Kuebler was estimated at $3 million; damage to the Nisalah was estimated at $3.9 million. For the full report, visit the NTSB website.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the collision between the tugboat Mark E. Kuebler and the tanker Nisalah was the mate maneuvering the tugboat near the starboard stern quarter of the tanker to make up to the larger vessel, which resulted in the tugboat being drawn in toward the tanker by hydrodynamic forces that the Z-drive tugboat had insufficient reserve power to counteract due to the transit speed of the vessels.
Hydrodynamic Factors:
  • As a ship moves through a waterway, the flow of water around the hull creates areas of high and low pressure.
  • These pressure variations can influence the movement of other vessels (such as tugs) operating in close proximity.
  • The textbook ASD Tugs: Thrust and Azimuth by Jeff Slesinger, explains that as a ship moves through the water, it first pushes water away from its bow, and after passing, the water rushes in to refill the space, creating suction.
  • As water flows around the stern, it is influenced by the propeller, also resulting in suction toward the hull.
Speed Factors:
  • The ship was traveling at 9.6 knots and the tug’s maximum speed was 13 knots, a 3.4 knot difference.
  • To maneuver and catch a line, the tug sped up to 11.6 knots, further reducing available thrust to just 1.4 knots in reserve. 1.4 knots represented just 11% of the tug’s power.
  • The tug operator’s company had a policy that directed tugs to require assisted vessels (ships) to slow to 7 knots or less, which leaves approximately 6 knots, or 40%, of reserve power available for maneuvering the ship.
  • The ship and tug were traveling at a speed that was well beyond the company policy speed limit. This did not allow the tug to have enough available thrust to overcome the hydrodynamic forces and led to this collision incident.
NTSB Recommendations:
  • Owners and operators of Z-drive tugboats that perform harbor assist operations should set speed limits for advanced maneuvers such as stern-first approaches. These limits may vary for different classes of tugboats based on design. Tugboat operators should communicate these limits to ship masters or pilots in command of the vessels that they are assisting before engaging in these maneuvers.
AWO Recommendations
  • Set your company policy for the speed limit of ships being assisted by Z-drive vessels to be no more than 60% of the tugboat’s maximum speed.
  • Ensure pilots of Z-drive vessels are well trained. A good resource to use when building training programs is ASD Tugs: Thrust and Azimuth by Jeff Slesinger.