The inland barge industry is ramping up efforts to prevent the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 virus.

The American Waterways Operators, the industry’s trade association, is coordinating several efforts to help barge operators deal with the coronavirus outbreak, from guidelines to avoiding the disease spread on vessels to incorporating social distancing in shoreside operations.

AWO has organized a webinar scheduled for Thursday, March 19, at 2 p.m. that will encourage industry members to discuss what plans they are taking in their operations and ask questions. “There are no one size fits all answers,” Jennifer Carpenter, AWO president and CEO said in a video announcing the webinar, adding that members can learn from each other’s experiences and ideas.

The association has also updated its “Contingency Planning Guide for Towing Vessel and Barge Operators” that was released last week. It is available on the AWO website.

In keeping with the recently announced recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control that meetings of more than 50 people not be held, AWO has canceled its annual Spring Convention and “Barge In,” that was scheduled for April 21-23 in Washington, D.C. These are important meetings at which the industry learns how certain issues are being handled in Washington, and representatives have the chance to meet personally with members of Congress and their staffs.

AWO has also canceled in-person workshops and meetings for the rest of the month, and possibly longer, although some will be handled by video conference or by phone. Many companies have already imposed travel bans on their employees, Carpenter said, including AWO staff.

Thursday’s webinar is being organized by AWO’s Safety Leadership Advisory Panel and is expected to address the many challenges that the virus presents for the industry.

Among the topics are training crewmembers to reduce their risk of exposure when on duty and reporting for work, identifying signs, symptoms and transmission of the virus, instructing crewmembers on personal hygiene, cleaning surfaces and vessel sanitation, screening crew members and others who have business abroad a vessel, stocking supplies and materials onboard, and reacting to positive virus tests of crewmembers.

Further information on all the above developments can be found at:

“AWO is committed to doing everything we can to help you keep your associates and the public safe while keeping vital maritime commerce moving,” Carpenter said in an alert for members posted Monday on the association’s website.

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.