The American Waterways Operators elected a new slate of leaders earlier this month during the association's annual Spring Convention in Washington, D.C.

Scott Merritt, former chief operating officer for Foss Maritime Co., was elected chairman. Arthur F. Mead, vice president and general counsel at Crowley Maritime Corp., was elected vice chairman. Merritt succeeds outgoing chairman Tom Marian, general counsel at Buffalo Marine Service.

AWO President & CEO Tom Allegretti welcomed and thanked the new board of directors. "You will hold your seat at a special and momentous time in our organization's history," he said in a statement. "2018 was a year of substantial advocacy and safety achievements for AWO, and you, our members, played a pivotal role in these accomplishments."

As AWO celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, Merritt emphasized the association's many accomplishments during 2018, while also noting the importance of continued vigilance.

"In addition to continuing to stave off Jones Act repeal efforts, we completed a 15-year collaboration with the United States Coast Guard to bring about Subchapter M, a regulatory doctrine designed for our industry, and in partnership with our industry,” he said. “We passed VIDA to move us closer to a regulatory regime that is not subject to the whim of state politics and politicians. We enacted legislation to protect our harbor services members against anticompetitive negotiation practices by ocean carrier alliances. And we developed groundbreaking safety resources to help our companies manage fatigue risk and implement best practices to prevent and respond to cyber incidents…[but] like Dabo Swinney of Clemson or Nick Saban of Alabama will tell you, work on the next season starts the day after the championship game, and that day is now."

Highlighting the industry's credibility, Merritt said that AWO members' message is "powerful because it is a great story. Our accomplishments are real; we don't need to spin them. We move our nation's goods and services in the safest, most environmentally friendly and cost-effective manner when compared to any other transportation mode."

Merritt also urged AWO members to be involved and make their voices heard. "I ask you to embrace your role as an AWO member company. As a member company, AWO is your voice and presence in Washington. We have great leadership in our CEO and COO roles at AWO and we have assembled a talented staff of smart and dedicated professionals. We have tasked them to carry our message forward and defend our industry from those who would improperly regulate it by accident or with intent. But in the end, it needs to be our message, our voice that is carried forward. Our message will only be effective if it is clear and complete. It needs to include your voice."

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.