I have spent over 40 years in the maritime industry, working my way up the hawsepipe from deckhand to master of a 1,000-passenger sternwheel riverboat.

Like many of you, I have participated in emergency drills, training exercises and classes. I hold numerous mariner licenses and have amassed a great deal of experience navigating our inland waterways. One might think that I have done it all and, as a result, I have nothing more to learn.

I disagree. I’m a lifelong learner who always seeks out new information that will make me a better mariner and help my professional growth.

In February, I attended the PVA Annual Convention in Tampa, Fla. I attend the PVA show each year to reconnect with industry colleagues and, importantly, to learn.

The meeting featured nearly 100 educational sessions and events that affect the passenger vessel industry. They provided timely information on several subjects. I attended sessions on fire suppression technologies, the role of the NTSB and the Coast Guard in investigating major marine casualties, OSHA obligations, medical and physical standards for mariners, the legal requirements of ADA for company websites, new vessel designs and shipyard trends, and how to prepare for an active shooter situation.

My learning experiences this year didn’t end at the PVA convention. Later in February, I attended the 2020 Great Lakes Waterways Conference in Cleveland. I always discover valuable information at this meeting.

At this conference, Great Lakes operators from the U.S. and Canada give me a broader perspective on the challenges that we all face. For example, this year I gained a new understanding of how Great Lakes operators are dealing with ice and high-water levels. High water is a problem that we all deal with on the inland rivers. I participated in discussions on security and interacted with all types of workboat operators. I also developed new relationships with members of the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers.

Have you attended a meeting of your association or industry organization recently? There is no better way to learn than at these types of gatherings. It is a great way to keep pace with our fast-paced, ever-changing industry.

A collection of stories from guest authors.