Most people don’t realize the important role that our inland rivers play in the transportation of products. They don’t realize that huge quantities of fuel, commodities and materials are moved via our inland river system. Most are also unaware how cost effective and environmentally friendly this form of transportation is.
In March, inland waterways industry officials along with key players from the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers gathered in Cincinnati for the 2017 Inland Waterways Conference. The focus was on infrastructure and other needs of the inland waterways system, its operating companies, shippers and mariners.
The conference began with an in-depth discussion of Subchapter M and featured experts who delved into the new regulation and answered questions from attendees. Merchant mariners who work on the inland rivers attended an important session conducted by Capt. Kirsten Martin, commanding officer of the Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center, and Capt. Greg Menke, compliance officer at Evansville Marine Service. The session offered discussions and debates that covered topics such as mariner licensing issues involving medical evaluations, license processing times and renewals, and changing licensing examination questions.
Also featured was a topical discussion on possible changes to towing vessel firefighting education and training, which I feel is too closely aligned with international STCW standards. In another session, Corps of Engineers officials updated civil works projects that affect navigation on the inland rivers and the Coast Guard provided reports on bridge administration.
Luncheon speaker Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles D. Michel calmed fears about the potential reduction of future Coast Guard inspection resources.
The conference also explored other important topics such as what to expect after a spill, how to cope with congested waterways, and distractions in the wheelhouse.
The conference provided an important opportunity for those who make their livings on the inland rivers to come together to promote a sound future for this valuable national resource. I encourage you to take part in the discussion by attending next year’s Inland Waterways Conference.