The importance of a seat at the table

Each day, operators focus on their businesses and the tasks at hand, and solve any immediate pressing problems. After that, they move on to new challenges and opportunities. The maritime industry places a lot of demands on your time. If you pilot a towboat or passenger vessel on the rivers or at sea, your time is even more precious. Whatever your job, everyone in the maritime industry must build in time to participate in or contribute to industry groups that represent our interests. Our futures literally hang in the balance.

Recently, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the Towing Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC) at Coast Guard headquarters. TSAC is a federal advisory committee made up of 18 industry and government representatives who tackle navigation and safety issues facing the towboat and barge industry. Each meeting also attracts members of the public. The recent meeting turned out to be a productive one.

The main topic that I was interested in was firefighting training requirements for towing vessels. The topic was intensely debated. My concern is that firefighting training requirements will be harmonized with International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) requirements, which are inappropriate for most domestic vessel operations. This international regulatory creep is an ongoing problem for domestic operators and mariners.

I was focused on firefighting training at TSAC, but I was pleased to learn that there is a proposal to eliminate the need for inland mariners to renew their radar endorsements. This is great news for inland mariners and eliminates a step in the mariner license renewal process. The licensing process today is much more complicated than it was 40 years ago when I first received my license. I applaud any action that will make it easier for U.S. mariners to get their credentials and keep on working.

TSAC is one of several advisory committees that focus on developing or changing policies that affect all U.S. commercial marine operators and mariners. I encourage you to get involved and share your opinions. After all, if you are not at the table, you are on the menu.

About the author

Capt. Alan Bernstein

Alan Bernstein, owner of BB Riverboats in Cincinnati, is a licensed master and a former president of the Passenger Vessel Association. He can be reached at 859-292-2449 or

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