Towboat rider program off to good start

A first-ever program that places U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadets on commercial towing vessels to learn about inland navigation is reportedly off to a successful start.

The program was launched earlier this month at the academy with an orientation program about the inland towing industry. The 16 participating cadets then traveled to various Coast Guard sectors across the country (New York, Hampton Roads, Va., Paducah, Ky., Puget Sound, Wash., Honolulu, San Francisco, San Juan and Detroit) from where they joined their assigned towboat companies.

Cadets Collin Gruin and Joshua Villafane on a CBC inland tank barge. Photo by Canal Barge.

Cadets will stay on vessels seven-to-14 days, depending on the boat’s schedule, and also spend a couple of days on shore learning about company operations.

They will stand watch, observe deck and engineering duties, and help out the crew as appropriate. The goal is to give them a good feel for towing vessel operations — something that is not part of their academic coursework or their normal at-sea experiences.

The Cadet Towing Vessel Rider Program sprouted from a discussion last year between WorkBoat and Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz, academy superintendent, during a discussion about ways to enhance cooperation between the towing industry and the Coast Guard.

The American Waterways Operators is coordinating participation from towing companies. President Thomas Allegretti said that educating the Coast Guard about the towing industry is especially timely, as the agency will soon be enforcing new safety regulations for the towing vessels.

Canal Barge Co. said they had a good launch of the program at the New Orleans-based company. Two cadets arrived on May 9 and received an orientation about CBC operations and the towing industry in general. Cadets also met with Frank Paskewich, a 1981 academy graduate, former Captain of the Port of New Orleans, and current executive director of Clean Gulf Associates, a marine response company. He offered a perspective about the diversity of the marine industry that the Coast Guard regulates, especially in Sector New Orleans.

Cadets then traveled to Vicksburg, Miss., where they are boarded the Joseph Merrick Jones, one of Canal Barge’s 6,000-hp linehaul towboats.

“We feel fortunate to be one of the companies participating in the rider program,” said Tom Smith, Canal Barge’s vice-president of human resources. “The cadets were very impressive, professional and attentive, and we’re happy that they were able to gain a working knowledge of the inland towing industry through shore-side orientation and six days onboard the Joseph Merrick Jones. This can only strengthen the relationship between industry and the Coast Guard.”

If these early reports are any indication, the industry and the Coast Guard Academy will be encouraged to continue the program beyond this summer, making it a regular feature of at-sea training programs available to future young officers.

This would be an important step toward maintaining good relations between the regulators and the regulated. Can’t beat that.

About the author

Pamela Glass

Pamela Glass is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for WorkBoat. She reports on the decisions and deliberations of congressional committees and federal agencies that affect the maritime industry, including the Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Prior to coming to WorkBoat, she covered coastal, oceans and maritime industry news for 15 years for newspapers in coastal areas of Massachusetts and Michigan for Ottaway News Service, a division of the Dow Jones Company. She began her newspaper career at the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times. A native of Massachusetts, she is a 1978 graduate of Wesleyan University (Conn.). She currently resides in Potomac, Md.

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