River issues facing operators and mariners

In November, the Passenger Vessel Association (PVA) held its Rivers Region Meeting at our new BB Riverboats facility in Newport, Ky.

Each year, I am reminded that the inland rivers is where PVA was founded nearly 50 years ago. Then, a small group of committed and like-minded riverboat operators came together to identify a much needed source of marine insurance and to develop a coordinated effort to address a variety of Coast Guard issues.

But this annual meeting presents more than the opportunity to just reminisce.  It offers riverboat operators a chance to discuss a range of current issues facing operators and mariners.

At the meeting, the Coast Guard’s new Mariner Medical Manual was discussed in detail. Also, an in-depth presentation that recounted the events leading up to the fire aboard the dive boat Conception and those aboard the Island Lady and the Tahoe Queen highlighted lessons learned and crew training recommendations. Unfortunately, accidents are reminders for operators to regularly review emergency procedures and drills.

During the meeting, we also discussed increased congestion on the navigable waterways. Much of this congestion is the result of growing public interest in recreational watercraft such as paddleboards, kayaks and canoes. As a result, mariners must constantly be on the lookout for those who are unfamiliar with the rules of the road. This type of congestion will only get worse, so we need to better educate the recreational boating public to help avoid future accidents.

An alarming trend is the increased frequency of active shooter incidents across the U.S. The meeting featured a presentation entitled, “How to Plan and Carry Out an Active Shooter Drill: Outcomes and Benefits.” My company recently cooperated with the Coast Guard’s Area Maritime Security Committee in an active shooter drill that helped us plan and understand how to respond should something like this occur aboard one of our vessels.

While there has not been an active shooter incident on board a commercial vessel, it is wise to prepare for the worst. I encourage you to work with local law enforcement agencies to organize an active shooter drill.

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 abernstein@bbriverboats.com.

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