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AWO Letter – May 8, 2024

Posted on May 13, 2024

IL House Passes Pro-Jones Act Resolution.  On April 30, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a resolution in support of the Jones Act by a vote of 104-7. The resolution lingered in committee for several weeks after there was a “technical issue” with the way the bill was passed the first time, allowing anti-Jones Act interest groups to voice opposition to the resolution. Thanks to all the AWO members who submitted comments in support of the resolution, and to AWO members who attended the Springfield Barge-In and were able to speak to decisionmakers about the necessity of the Jones Act for Illinois’ maritime industry. Participating AWO members included Derek Egan (Northern Marine), Angela Grett (Ingram Barge Company), Dan Saunders (ADM/ARTCO), and Michael Meredith (Marquette Transportation), who lent their time and talent to help get this resolution across the goal line.  Finally, thank you to Rep. Lance Yednock (D-76th District) for his dogged pursuit of passing this resolution and formalizing the Illinois House of Representatives’ support of the domestic maritime industry and domestic mariners.

NTSAC Meets in Annapolis.  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 leadership of NTSAC’s other active Subcommittee 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. NTSAC 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.

Grace Period to Renew Expired Mariner Credentials Extended to 6 Years.  The Coast Guard recently released Policy Letter 01-24 to temporarily allow mariners to renew a merchant mariner credential (MMC) up to 6 years after its expiration date without taking the complete original examination. This expansion of the grace period from 1 year to 6 years does not extend the validity of an expired MMC, nor does it provide any authority for a mariner to sail on an expired MMC. It is intended to provide additional flexibility for previously credentialed individuals to re-enter the mariner workforce.

AccuTrans’ Gary Osorno Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from SCI.  On April 17, the Seamen’s Church Institute held its annual Maritime Training Benefit Luncheon in Houston, Texas, co-chaired by Austin Golding and Clark Todd, presidents of Golding Barge Line and Blessey Marine Services, respectively. During the event, AccuTrans President & CEO Gary Osorno received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the industry. Captain Pete Ciaramitaro of Southern Devall was also honored with the Outstanding Trainer Award.

The event raised $266,000 in support of SCI’s worthy programs. It was also announced at the luncheon that SCI had reached its $5 million goal for the Ministry on the River campaign.

CISA Releases Fact Sheet on Defending Against Pro-Russia Hacktivist Threats to Critical Infrastructure.  The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued a fact sheet regarding ongoing malicious cyber activities by pro-Russia hacktivists. These hacktivists are targeting small-scale operational technology (OT) systems and internet-exposed industrial control systems (ICS) in critical infrastructure sectors across North America and Europe. CISA has identified three actions companies can take today to help safeguard against these activities:

  • Immediately change all default passwords of OT devices (including programmable logic controllers and human machine interfaces), and use strong, unique passwords;
  • Limit exposure of OT systems to the internet; and
  • Implement multifactor authentication for all access to the OT network.

The fact sheet, which includes additional recommendations and resources, can be found here.

CISA Encourages Small Businesses to Strengthen Cybersecurity.  To mark National Small Business Week last week, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) published a blog post with four steps small businesses can take to protect themselves from cyberattacks:

  • Phishing Training : Employees should be trained to identify phishing attempts, understand the potential damage, and learn to scrutinize emails before engaging with any content.
  • Robust Passwords : Strong, at least 16-character long, and unique passwords are essential. Utilizing an enterprise-level password manager can simplify security protocols, making it easier to maintain diverse passwords across accounts.
  • Multifactor Authentication (MFA) : MFA adds a critical security layer, requiring additional verification methods such as codes or biometric scans, easily implemented with today’s technology.
  • Software Vigilance : Regularly updating software is non-negotiable. Automatic updates ensure that the latest security patches are applied, safeguarding sensitive data.

CISA offers additional online resources through its cybersecurity awareness program, Secure Our World, and its regional offices, which can provide tailored risk management and response services.

For more information, please reach out to Liam Morcroft.

New AWO Campaign to Promote Recreational Boater Safety.  AWO’s new digital campaign, created with the input of the AWO Recreational Boating Safety Working Group (BSWG), features a set of QR-code-based stickers that will be distributed to the public just in time for Memorial Day weekend, the start of the summer boating season. The QR code linked in each sticker will contain information on safe recreational boating best practices. This outreach will support the BSWG mission to educate recreational boaters about tug and barge operations and reduce the risk of incidents between commercial and recreational vessels operating on multi-use waterways.

If you are interested in supporting this mission by distributing stickers or would like more information about the working group, please reach out to Mike Breslin.

Waterways Journal Article Highlights AWO 80th Anniversary. The Waterways Journal recently published an article on AWO’s 80th anniversary, featuring insights from AWO President & CEO Jennifer Carpenter, Chairman Rick Iuliucci, and Vice Chair Kelly Teichman. “As the voice of the tugboat, towboat and barge industry–inland, coastal and harbors–AWO has always occupied a unique position in advocating for the issues most important to our industry,” Jennifer explained. Read the full article on the Waterways Journal website.

Foss Offshore Wind’s Joel Whitman Joins AWO President on AMP Podcast. Joel Whitman, President of Foss Maritime Company Offshore Wind, joined AWO President & CEO Jennifer Carpenter for a special Earth Day episode of the American Maritime Podcast recently, discussing how Jones Act companies are driving America’s energy future, offshore wind, and more. Watch on YouTube or listen wherever you get your podcasts.

AWO PAC Corner

AWO PAC and Inside Elections. AWO PAC has partnered with Inside Elections for another special edition, featuring analysis of ongoing gubernatorial races and more.

AWO PAC is the connected political action committee for The American Waterways Operators and serves as the trade association’s separate segregated fund. As a trade association, AWO is prohibited from using general treasury funds or membership dues to make federal contributions. AWO is one of the most effective advocacy associations in Washington, DC, and relies on voluntary personal contributions to fund AWO PAC.

AWO PAC supports federal candidates who are champions of the U.S. tugboat, towboat and barge industry and who are leaders on issues important to our industry. AWO PAC is dedicated to protecting AWO members’ investments in the safest, most environmentally responsible and most economical mode of freight transportation and safeguarding the integrity of the Jones Act to protect the bottom lines of our members.

AWO PAC may solicit contributions from individuals of a member company once the member representative gives AWO written prior approval.

Join Us for the Third Sacramento Barge-In . AWO’s Director – State Advocacy Kyle Burleson will be leading a third Barge-In at the California State Capitol on May 28-29 and we need your help!  This trip is focused on lobbying in support of AB 1122, which would protect mariner safety with regard to potentially dangerous requirements of CARB’s Commercial Harbor Craft Rule.  We have had two successful trips to Sacramento so far, and with a scheduled June hearing on the bill, this will be our final opportunity to meet with legislators in person to discuss how important it is to protect our mariners, vessels, and the environment.  Please contact Kyle at or 313-407-8072 for more information.

Jill Bessetti Joins AWO Staff as Vice President, Southern Region. AWO welcomes Jill Bessetti as the newest member of our staff team! Jill began work May 6 after a successful active duty and civilian career with the U.S. Coast Guard, serving most recently as Eighth District Towing Vessel Coordinator. She attained the rank of Commander during her active-duty Coast Guard career, which included experience in New Orleans, Mobile and Philadelphia. Additionally, Jill spent 10 years teaching adult learners about environmental science in an online environment.  Jill is based in New Orleans and can be reached at or  985-298-2274.

AWO Announces Regional Staff Promotions . AWO is pleased to announce two staff promotions coincident with the May 3 retirement of long-serving Senior Vice President – Regional Advocacy Lynn Muench. Effective May 1, Peter Schrappen has been promoted to Vice President – Pacific Region and Regional Team Lead, and Justin Lampert has been promoted to Director – Midcontinent Office. Alongside his duties in the Pacific Region, Peter will supervise the talented regional team of Brian Vahey, Vice President – Atlantic Region; Kyle Burleson, Director – State Advocacy; newly hired Vice President – Southern Region Jill Bessetti; and Justin Lampert. Justin will add to his responsibilities as staff lead for the Midwest and Ohio Valley regions leadership of AWO’s inland waterways management portfolio, including support for the River Industry Executive Task Force.

“I’m delighted to announce these well-deserved promotions,” said Jennifer Carpenter, AWO President & CEO. “AWO’s regional team plays a crucial role in our advocacy work and as frontline ambassadors to AWO members and external stakeholders. I want to thank every member of the regional team for their support during the transition to Lynn Muench’s retirement, and I look forward to working with Peter, Brian, Justin, Kyle, and now Jill to build on the strong foundation Lynn has built and take our advocacy and member service to the next level.”

AWO April Navigating to Zero Recap.  The latest edition of Navigating to Zero, AWO’s safety and sustainability newsletter, i ncludes predictions for a busy Atlantic hurricane season, discussion on how AWO members can participate in Wear Your Life Jacket at Work Day and Safe Boating Week, our latest American Waterways HERO Award recipients, and an overview of the benefits of micro learning with Marine Learning Systems . The newsletter also includes high value near misses,  lessons learned from recent NTSB investigation reports, BSEE alerts,  and our Safety Professional Spotlight featuring Jill Lazo, Towing Vessel Safety Program Manager & Third Party Program Oversight at U.S. Coast Guard District 13. 

Read these stories and more in the  April NTZ  and please be sure to send in your SSRP reports for the 1st QTR,  your High Value Near Misses,  and recognize your crew’s HEROic acts! 

Visit AWO at Inland Marine Expo! AWO will be attending the Inland Marine Expo May 29-31 in Nashville, TN and will be headquartered at booth 1004. Please take a moment to stop by and say hi!

Justin Lampert, AWO Director – Midcontinent Office will moderate a panel on lessons learned from last year’s low water experience on May 30 and Kelly Teichman, who will take the helm from Rick Iuliucci as AWO Chairman of the Board on May 14, will make remarks and present a video on the American Waterways HERO Award. We look forward to seeing many AWO members there!

AWO Spring Convention and Barge-In is Next Week! There is still time to register and join AWO’s marquee event,  the Spring Convention and Barge-In. We hope you will join us for one or all of the many networking events including receptions, a social dinner, yoga, a city fun run/walk, and Capitol building tours. Please contact Caitlin Clark for more information.


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