Coast Guard, inland waterways launch new training program

Inland towing companies are gearing up to welcome cadets from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy onboard their boats this summer as part of a new training partnership between the towing industry and the academy.

An agreement outlining the Cadet Towing Vessel Rider program was signed on Feb. 22 between Thomas Allegretti, president of the American Waterways Operators, and Adm. Sandra L. Stosz, superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, in Arlington, Va.

Between 12-20 cadets, assigned in pairs, will ride commercial towing vessels and also spend time on shore learning the business side of towing during a five-to-seven-day period this summer. AWO is currently identifying companies in different geographic regions that will volunteer to host cadets.

Officials hope that this year’s pilot program will lead to a more permanent initiative that will expand in both the number of cadets and number of vessels participating.

“I hope that this is the beginning of other partnerships that will effect our ability to interact with the industry,” Adm. Stosz said in an interview after the signing ceremony.

She said there is a growing interest among cadets to serve in marine safety billets as they regard the assignments as relevant and helpful to the commercial industry that they will oversee.

Stosz said that launch of the program comes at an important moment for the industry and the Coast Guard. The academy is currently expanding its marine safety curriculum, and the industry and the Coast Guard are gearing up for the new towing vessel inspection regulations. In addition, as the Coast Guard cutter fleet shrinks and is replaced by fewer and more capable vessels, the academy must find new ways to provide cadets with the required sea time.

As the academy reforms its curriculum, “there has been a culture shift,” said Scott Calhoun, Marine Safety Training Coordinator at the New London, Conn.-based academy. The rider program represents “a great quantum leap” in that direction. Normally cadets spend their training time on Coast Guard cutters, aircraft or in sector offices, not necessarily on commercial vessels.

“This may be the only chance for cadets to learn what towing vessels are all about,” he said.


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