Navigating to Zero - May 2024

AWO's Recreational Boating Safety Working Group Kicks Off Safety Awareness Campaign
AWO's Recreational Boating Safety Working Group aims to make a significant impact on the boating community through dynamic safety messaging. During Wear Your Life Jacket at Work Day and National Safe Boating Week, the group has been working hard to promote safety on multi-use waterways. Now, as first mentioned in the May 8 AWO Letter, the group is launching a new campaign using eye-catching stickers that link to AWO's LifeLines boater safety pamphlet.
The success of the Working Group is dependent on partnership, and AWO members have responded enthusiastically to the call for action. Cooperation between Harbor Safety Committees, state boating authorities, members such as Moxie Media, and the Coast Guard has been instrumental in the effort to share a message of safety with the boating community in time for the busy summer boating season.
To join our effort to improve safety on multi-use waterways, contact, visit our partners' websites, or stop by the AWO Resources Library to order your own sticker set!
American Waterways HERO Award -- Nominate Your Crew to Recognize Heroic Acts
Our industry's mariners work tirelessly to ensure the smooth flow of commerce while safeguarding our nation's waterways, but while our industry is the safest mode of freight transportation, emergencies can and do still happen. In those crucial moments, 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 but are not limited to 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 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. Thanks to award sponsor 360 Coverage Pros & Berkley Offshore, mariners will also receive a one-year complimentary marine license and professional liability insurance policy.
Congratulations to this month's recipients of the American Waterways HERO Award:
Date of Event
Kirby Inland Marine
Kirby Inland Marine
Kirby Inland Marine
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
Woody Collins ( ) joined The American Equity Underwriters, Inc. (AEU) in 2011 with 30 years of experience in the maritime industry already under his belt. He currently serves as a Senior Loss Control Manager, and has worked as a Relationship Manager for the AEU ALMA and Advantage programs, a Program Manager for AEU LEAD , and a Loss Control Manager. Woody's maritime expertise includes managing projects for a large repair shipyard, co-owning a marine labor provider and small towboat company, managing the auditing process while implementing a safety management system, and training facility safety coordinators at a new construction and repair shipyard.
Can you talk about AEU's culture and share an example of how it contributes to your safe operations?
At AEU, our culture is deeply rooted in servant leadership, a value instilled at every level of the organization. We understand and emphasize the value of building strong internal and external partnerships.
One recent example of how this culture contributes to safe operations is when one of our members, a labor provider that had grown through multiple acquisitions, asked for our help to consolidate and update numerous safety manuals. These manuals were written from the perspective of a host client, as opposed to that of a labor provider. Considering the importance of this effort and our extensive experience with labor providers, our Loss Control team agreed to collaborate and rewrite the manual. This project is ongoing, and once completed, it will not only benefit this member but also other labor providers that partner with us. We also intend to develop an orientation program based on the manual, which will meet or exceed OSHA's Temporary Worker Initiative guidelines.
Can you share some milestones you achieved with AEU's safety program in 2023 and discuss any new or continuing initiatives AEU is considering in 2024?
We're always looking for ways that technology and information-sharing can improve safety. To keep our members up to speed with the latest in emerging technologies, we've started including these topics in our National Forum, a bi-annual event dedicated to preventing incidents and resolving claims effectively. This culture of collaboration was evidenced last year when we launched our Loss Control Advisory Council. This council brings safety leaders from our customers' organizations together to discuss and enhance safety programs across our membership.
We also believe in the power of collaboration and sharing best practices not just with our customers, but across the industry. We have employees who are active in several organizations, including the Marine Chemist Qualification Board, Maritime Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (MACOSH), National Association of Waterfront Employers (NAWE), National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety & Health (NACOSH), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA), the National Maritime Safety Administration (NMSA), and, of course, AWO.
Another exciting initiative we're working on is updating our training materials to a modern e-learning format. This change will enable our members to provide ongoing safety awareness training for their workers.
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 as a career?
I entered the maritime industry 34 years ago, starting as a fiberglass grinder at a large shipyard in South Louisiana, earning minimum wage. Eager to support my family, I seized every opportunity to work overtime, often in different departments. This allowed me to learn various skills and trades, such as welding, fitting, blasting, painting, piping, and safety, increasing my value and advancing my position within the company.
For those looking at a career in the maritime industry, my advice is to embrace every opportunity to learn something new. Form relationships with multiple mentors, ask questions with the intention of understanding, and practice active listening. Remember, we have two ears and one mouth, and that's so we can talk less and listen more.
Signal Mutual Focused on Leadership and Management Culture
Signal Mutual's Safety Committee recently published the agenda for its upcoming Seattle meeting, which will focus on the importance of leadership in a high-functioning safety culture. At the June 11-12 meeting, the Safety Committee will cover topics including Human Organizational Performance (HOP), mental health, and promoting workplace safety culture.
Richard Lubert, Signal's Senior Vice President of Safety & Member Performance, shared more about Signal's push for leadership in safety in a conversation with AWO, sharing the importance of leadership engagement from frontline managers and executives. Below are a few of the salient points Signal emphasized for leaders:
Executive Visibility
  • Walk your site and model desired behaviors.
  • Communicate safety vision & who is affected.
  • Set and measure leading indicators.
  • Measure individuals on safety G&Os & KPIs.
  • Discuss safety at every meeting - your focus matters to your team.
  • Gather, review, and use data to identify trends and ensure corrective actions are implemented.
  • Safety is a line management function with authority and resources -- your safety manager cannot be responsible for safety alone.
  • Eliminate barriers to employees working safely.
Frontline Supervisors Operationalize Safety Management KPIs
  • Frontline supervisors must positively engage with employees and take time to be visible over an entire shift by walking worksites and talking with (not at) employees.
  • Reinforce employees' safe behaviors publicly to ensure employees see management recognizing positive behaviors.
  • Correct unsafe behaviors in a positive, constructive manner tied to "getting home to family." 
  • Implement a "Safe Production," not just production, daily process by starting each shift with an interactive safety kickoff discussion and back-to-basics review.
  • Build trust in all directions to build bridges and reciprocate interest. 
  • Identify hazards, implement corrective controls, and track closure of items.
To learn more about Signal Mutual's safety programs and Safety Committee Meeting, visit
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Announces Increase in U.S. Drowning Deaths
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a significant increase in drowning deaths, with over 4,500 fatalities annually from 2020 to 2022, which is 500 more per year compared to 2019.
While a root cause was not identified, the report identified the most vulnerable groups, which included children aged 1-4, adults over 65, and Black individuals of all ages. A contributing factor was a perceived swimming skills gap, as the CDC explained that approximately 40 million U.S. adults lack basic swimming skills, and a significant number have never taken swimming lessons.
The CDC emphasized the importance of accessible swimming lessons, public pool infrastructure, and community engagement to reduce drowning risks. For more detailed information, visit the CDC's website.
AWO High Potential Learning Value Near Misses
Near Miss and Stop Work events are leading indicators that allow vessel operators 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 highlight recent High Potential Learning Value Near Misses submitted voluntarily by AWO members. Please use this form to submit your own Near Miss or Stop Work event. To see all published High-Value Near Misses, please visit the AWO Resources website:
Petcoke residue is all over the dock walking surface due to petcoke falling off the conveyor belt during loading operations. It is very slippery and hazardous when walking.
  1. First aid injury or Lost Time injury due to:
    • Slip and Fall injury or near miss - same level or from height.
    • Fall Overboard with injury or fatality.
  1. Loss of product.
  1. Environmental contamination.
  1. Negative business impact for downtime needed to clean barge.
  1. ADMINISTRATIVE and TRAINING: Advise deckhands and tankermen to be careful while walking the side of a barge -- especially during transfer operations where cargo may spill on deck.
  2. ADMINISTRATIVE: Discuss policy that advises tankermen and deck crew to call stop work if cargo is present on decks. Insist the terminal clean the barge walkways prior to walking on the barge.
  3. ENGINEERING: Discuss building containment or barriers under cargo belts, near areas close to digging ladders or parts of the deck where cargo may spill during bucket transfer operations.
  4. PPE: Always wear PFD and other appropriate gear when working near water and on barges.
MEMBER-SUBMITTED NEAR MISS 24-04T: Access & Egress -- Safe Transport of Gear to Barge from Dock
Tankerman was on the dock trying to get his tools/equipment down onto the barge below, but the dock did not have a basket or rope to lower his items. The dock operator instructed the tankerman just to carry it down the ladder with him. Recognizing the risk in doing so, the tankerman utilized his Stop Work Authority and waited until a rope could be provided to safely lower his gear.
  1. First aid injury or Lost Time injury due to:
    • Slip and Fall injury or near miss - same level or from height.
    • Fall Overboard with injury or fatality.
  1. Negative business impacts.
  1. ADMINISTRATIVE and TRAINING: Advise deckhands and tankermen to stand your ground and use Stop Work. If something doesn't look right, feel right, or smell right - it's not right.
  2. ADMINISTRATIVE: Consider policy that advises tankermen and deck crew to bring a rope and bucket when going to unfamiliar docks -- or design an SOP that crews carry this gear to all docks and facilities.
  3. ENGINEERING: Discuss building access to the barge that allows safe passage on a ramp or stairwell that has a safe pitch that allows walking with tools in hand.
  4. PPE: Always wear PFD and other appropriate gear when working near water and on tank barges.
MEMBER-SUBMITTED NEAR MISS 24-06: Weekly Emergency Generator Test to Avoid Loss of Power in an Emergency
While conducting the weekly test of the emergency generator, the engine failed to start on the #1 battery bank. Further inspection found that one of the batteries was bad. The engineer changed out the battery and tested the engine. The #1 battery bank was online; therefore, in the case of an emergency, the emergency generator would have failed to start.
  1. Loss of propulsion.
  2. Loss of control of the vessel.
  3. Serious marine incident causing harm to people, the environment, and/or property.
  1. Weekly tests of critical equipment are imperative to verify proper operation.
  2. Generator automatic switches work by swapping the power from one generator to a backup if the online generator fails; however, it is imperative to test the offline generator to ensure it will start when needed.
MEMBER-SUBMITTED NEAR MISS 24-07: Reduction Gear Cooling Water Pump Failure
Reduction gear cooling water pump unexpectedly de-energized causing a rise in lubricating oil temperature. The rise in temperature was noticed very quickly by the sharp-eyed Assistant Engineer who identified it well before the temperature hit its alarm set-point. The pump was restarted without issue, the wheelhouse was notified, and the Chief Engineer and Captain were awakened. The Chief called the wheelhouse and asked for the engine to be taken out of gear.
The Chief and the Assistant then began to inspect and verify that the reduction gear was still getting proper lubricating flow and pressures. After this was confirmed, the engine was sped back up to sea speed without issue.
At the next port, the connections were all checked inside the pump's motor controller box and the stop button contactor was replaced as a precautionary measure, as the issue could not be replicated.
  1. Possible sticking of gear.
  2. Engine overheating.
  3. Catastrophic failure that expands to include more components.
  1. Vigilant rounds made by the engineer on watch can catch and correct issues well before they develop into problems.
  2. In place of in-person rounds, procedures to monitor pressure and functioning alarm panels are critical to ensuring continuous safe operation of machinery.
  3. Procedures should be reviewed at least annually, upon installation of new equipment, following repairs, and following an incident, near miss, or hazard recognition to ensure proper installation of machinery and alarms.
NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on Francis Scott Key Bridge Incident
​​On March 26, 2024, the Singapore-flagged cargo vessel Dali encountered a loss of electrical power and propulsion while navigating out of Baltimore Harbor, leading to the vessel contacting the Francis Scott Key Bridge which resulted in the bridge collapsing into the Patapsco River. At the time of the incident, a seven-person road maintenance crew was on the bridge and 23 crewmembers were onboard the Dali. The NTSB is leading the safety investigation, which is ongoing​​​​.
Summary of Events:
  • Initial Power Loss: At 0125, the Dali lost power, 0.6 miles (three ship lengths) from the Key Bridge, halting its propeller.
  • Partial Power Regain: By 0126, power to the rudder returned, but the main engine remained off.
  • Full Power and Anchor Drop: Around 30 seconds later, full power was restored, the anchor dropped, and tug assistance was called.
  • Second Power Loss: At 0127, a second blackout occurred, leaving the rudder powered by the emergency generator.
  • Collision: Despite avoidance efforts by the crew, the Dali struck the Key Bridge at 0129:10, leading to six fatalities -- all members of the road maintenance crew.
Initial Findings:
  • Fuel was tested during the investigation, with no impurities found.
  • Drugs and alcohol were not a factor according to post-incident testing of the crew.
  • The bridge was last inspected in May 2023 and was reported as satisfactory.
Continuing Investigations:
The NTSB is focused on investigating the design and operation of the Dali's power distribution system, as well as the dolphins and pier protection of the Key Bridge and improvements made to fendering systems following incidents at similar bridges, including the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay, Florida; the Queen Elizabeth Causeway Bridge near South Padre Island, Texas; and the I-40 Bridge near Webbers Falls, Oklahoma. In addition, the NTSB is continuing to speak with bridge experts, waterways management personnel, marine safety and highway regulators, and vessel operators.
For the full preliminary report, visit the NTSB website
​​On January 16, 2023, about 0050 local time, the dredging vessel WB Wood capsized near mile 85 on the Lower Mississippi River about 10 miles east-southeast of New Orleans. The sole crewmember was rescued by a Good Samaritan towing vessel; there were no injuries. An estimated 5,500 gallons of oil were released from the sunken vessel. The WB Wood was salvaged but the vessel, valued at $1.5 million, was declared a total loss. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the capsizing of the dredging vessel WB Wood was a lack of company requirements for the crew to regularly check compartments below deck, which resulted in undetected flooding from a through-hull pipe that was missing its overboard check valve and subsequent progressive flooding from compromised watertight bulkheads. For the full report, visit the NTSB's website.
NTSB Recommendation: Conduct Routine Checks of Voids and Hull Space(s)
NTSB Statement on FAA's Safety Management System Final Rule
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has enacted a final rule mandating that certain aviation operators and manufacturers implement a Safety Management System (SMS). In a clear statement about the NTSB's stance on SMS requirements, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said, "Requiring more operators to implement proven strategies to protect the flying public is a positive step for safety, and one the NTSB has long supported." The NTSB is currently reviewing the FAA's new rule to assess its effect on six open recommendations to airlines related to SMS use, aiming to further bolster the safety framework within the aviation industry.
While the FAA rule does not impact towing vessel operators, the NTSB's support of SMS use by the marine industry is well-documented. In August 2023, the NTSB renewed a call for the U.S. Coast Guard to require SMS for passenger vessels, and the NTSB has been a long-time proponent of SMS to proactively manage safety risks.
The full statement is available on the NTSB's website.
NTSAC Meets in Annapolis -- Closes Task 22-02 and Begins New Tasks
The National Towing Safety Advisory Committee (NTSAC) convened in Annapolis, MD on April 30 and May 1. NTSAC is a Congressionally authorized federal advisory committee that provides the Coast Guard with advice on issues related to shallow-draft inland navigation, coastal navigation, and towing safety. The first day was a working day open to the public, and day two was a formal public meeting.
NTSAC closed Task 22-02, accepting the final report of its Subcommittee on "Recommendations for Training and Instruction Best Practices for Personnel Working Aboard Subchapter M Inspected Vessels" (the draft final report is available online). The  Subcommittee's final report:
  1. Validates the required training topics listed in 46 CFR § 140;
  1. Recommends improvements to the functionality of the USCG National Maritime Center's list of approved courses; and
  1. Includes tips on successful training.
The leadership of NTSAC's other active Subco mmittee on Task 22-01, "Recommendations for Rulemaking Improvements to Subchapter M," provided a status update and will present a final report to the Committee at its next meeting in September. While not final, the Subcommittee's draft report includes these recommendations:
  1. Consolidate and publish CG-835 appeals and outcomes; and
  2. Reintroduce FAQs on the Towing Vessel National Center of Expertise (TVNCOE) website.
NTSAC also took on two new tasks, 24-01 and 24-02, to make recommendations to the Coast Guard on its implementation of the signage and master key control system requirements of the Safer Seas Act.
AWO is engaged in all of NTSAC's Subcommittees and encourages members to participate in the Committee's work to ensure the Coast Guard can benefit from the real-world perspective of towing vessel and barge operators. For more information or to get involved, please contact Liam Morcroft.
Interregion and Coastal Safety Committees' Summer Meeting set for Chicago, August 14-15
AWO's Interregion and Coastal Safety Committees' Summer Meeting is scheduled for August 14-15 in Chicago. Book today and secure your spot at the tugboat, towboat and barge industry's premier meeting this summer! 
5:00 p.m. -- 6:30 p.m.
Welcome reception
7:10 p.m. -- 10:00 p.m.
MLB - Chicago White Sox vs. New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field
7:00 a.m. -- 8:00 a.m.
Networking Breakfast
8:00 a.m. -- 12:00 p.m.
Safety Meeting General Session #1
2:00 p.m. -- 4:30 p.m.
Safety Meeting General Session #2
4:30 p.m. -- 5:00 p.m.
American Waterways HERO Award presentations
5:00 p.m. -- 6:30 p.m.
Closing Reception
7:00 p.m. -- 9:30 p.m.
Social Dinner

Contact Mike Breslin ( to learn about safety sessions or Caitlin Clark for registration questions. (

Embracing Human and Organizational Performance (HOP): A Paradigm Shift to Address Safety and Workforce Challenges
Michael Breslin, AWO Director - Safety and Sustainability, recently penned a column for Marine News discussing Human Organizational Performance (HOP) as a progressive approach to workplace safety that focuses on learning from errors rather than penalizing them and promoting a culture of safety and continuous improvement in the workplace.
Explaining the safety and workforce benefits of a HOP-based management system, the column highlights the importance of management's reaction to errors and investigates the connection between the response to incidents and the retention of experienced employees. At its core, HOP recognizes that mistakes are inevitable. Once accepted, an organization must make the choice between penalizing workers for missteps or using incidents as learning opportunities. The latter choice allows companies to retain experienced employees who make mistakes, which has the added impact of supplementing recruitment efforts by illustrating the organization's willingness to invest in their workforce's education.
AWO will continue to provide forums and opportunities for members to learn as the industry navigates this positive disruptive change in management culture.
To read the full article, visit the Marine News website.