Last Week, the American Waterways Operators elected Del Wilkins, president of Illinois Marine Towing Inc, chairman. Wilkins, along with a new slate of leaders, was elected during the association's Spring Board of Directors/Annual Membership Meeting.

In addition to Wilkins, Clark Todd, president and COO of Blessey Marine Services, was elected vice chairman; and Brian Hughes, vice president operations and sales, Hughes Bros. Inc. was elected treasurer. Wilkins succeeds outgoing Chairman Arthur F. Mead, vice president and chief counsel, Crowley Maritime Corp.

AWO President and CEO Jennifer Carpenter laid out a hopeful vision after a challenging year for the industry:

"And now we look forward – with confidence, because we know our strength and our resilience in the face of adversity," she said, "with optimism, because we're hopeful that the worst of the pandemic and the market disruption it wrought is behind us, with gratitude for the community that supported us through it, and with excitement because we're not going back to normal, we're moving forward to better, and there is so much for us to tackle together."


Wilkins, the first African American chairman of AWO, emphasized the critical importance of AWO leveraging all available resources in order to achieve continued success:

"It's often said that AWO punches above its weight – that we're able to achieve more than many people would expect of an organization and industry of our size relative to other modes of transportation that Americans may be more familiar with from their everyday lives," Wilkins said. "And that's true. We pack an effective punch…But just because you punch above your weight, doesn't mean you'll automatically bring home the title.

"So how do we deliver the knockout? We do it by bringing all of our resources to bear, making ourselves that much more formidable inside the ring."  

The marine towing industry must prioritize working closely with partners across the U.S. supply chain toward public policy outcomes that benefit the nation, Wilkins said.

"We must never lose sight of the fact that America's economy is built on strong supply chains – nationwide networks of producers harnessing the inputs and creating the products that people need to live their lives; and transporters from all modes safely and efficiently getting it all to where it needs to go. Each producer, and each transporter, is critical to that supply chain foundation that makes the United States a global leader – it takes all of us. Our supply chains are the envy of the world, and other nations have long been trying to replicate what we have.

"We therefore need to think more broadly and creatively about how to turn that coexistence with other modes into productive alliances and partnerships."