As spring approaches along the Western Rivers, I always contemplate another season of sharing the waterways with users of our vibrant river system.
It’s exciting to see our beautiful rivers spring to life with assorted vessels and activities that had been dormant all winter. With this comes the realization that these waterways users may not be as vigilant as commercial mariners when it comes to safety. So to mark the beginning of the spring navigation season, it’s time to revisit and review safety.
As an experienced Ohio River commercial marine operator, I am concerned that professional mariners don’t do enough to get the safety message out to the general public. And while I believe that professional mariners can do a lot of good in the safety education arena, we could use some help. The Coast Guard and other regulatory bodies could encourage commercial maritime companies and their wheelhouse employees to take part in programs that educate novice mariners on the perils of boating on the Western Rivers.
Recreational boaters that operate on or near the main stem of the river system must know the basic “rules of the road.” People can’t legally operate an automobile without first passing a driver’s exam. So how come it is acceptable for an individual to purchase a boat and immediately take to the water without having to pass a test on the basic rules?
What’s the solution? How about requiring a nationwide boater education and safety course that certifies that an individual has a core understanding of boating safety and the rules of the road? I believe that a state boating license program is what is really needed, but a national certification course administered by national and/or state organizations would certainly be a step in the right direction. Getting professional mariners involved in these courses would be very helpful.
Yes, professional mariners are very busy. But our participation and support in educating the boating public is our professional responsibility. Let’s reaffirm our commitment to safety by volunteering to share our knowledge and expertise. We owe it to our customers, employees and, most of all, to our passengers.