Social distancing is not something that comes easy on a towboat or barge, or any kind of workboat.
Mariners must work and live in close quarters. The nature of the work requires close collaboration of a team that has specific roles that keep the vessel moving, safe and well-maintained.
Keeping the waterways open and commerce moving is especially important at a time when the world has been thrown into an uncertain pattern and scary future by the spread of the novel coronavirus.
We need the energy moved by barges to fuel our homes. We need the grains moved by barges to feed the animals that provide us food. And the rest of the world depends on the farm, energy and steel products moved by the U.S. tug and barge industry.
We’ve heard about how the barge industry is dealing with the situation, imposing sanitation procedures onshore and on vessels, performing health checks of employees, initiating emergency plans, limiting or prohibiting visitors to their facilities, and mandating that shoreside personnel work from home.
But working from home when your job is on a vessel isn’t possible. And the Department of Homeland Security has just published guidelines that list mariners in various sectors of the industry as “essential transportation workers” that should continue to work.
So, we were wondering what it’s like working on a vessel while most of the rest of the world is social distancing, hunkering down at home, stocking up on food and fretting about the future.
Tell us what it’s like being in such close quarters with fellow crewmembers and in small spaces when the rest of us have been told to keep a distance of six feet from each other?
How has the routine and life onboard changed? Is it hard to keep up with the new demands for personal and vessel hygiene and sanitation? Are you worried about loved ones sheltering in place at home? Are you concerned about being vulnerable to infection as you work so close to others? Do you wonder if you should be working at all? How are you getting your news and information?
Drop us a line and share your thoughts and experiences in the space below. Perhaps opening a dialogue will help others better handle their concerns during these anxious times.