Communication can make or break relationships. Just ask your wife or husband. Good communication build teams, partnerships, organizations and, above all, crews. Safety is a team sport and requires the best communication possible.

We have all heard of countless accidents where a lack of, insufficient, or bad communications ended in disaster. The working partnership between mariners, industry operators, management and the Coast Guard is all about good communications that keeps everyone safe and the boats moving. There have been longstanding historical problems and complaints about communications between the Coast Guard and the industry. Government-speak versus mariner-ese. How did we get here? More importantly, how do we communicate better so it doesn’t become Navajo speaking to the Greeks?

Last week, I attended the 15th annual Towing Vessel Safety Seminar in Virginia Beach, Va., organized by a hardworking committee from the Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads and the Virginia Maritime Association (VMA). The Towing Vessel Safety Seminar draws a wide slice of the local industry and Coast Guard. Mariners were there in force. Company managers and Coast Guard personnel who interface with the towing industry were also there, as were vendors. This year almost 150 folks got together for a great day of communication that went a long way to strengthening partnerships between everyone who has anything to do with towing. There was a lot of mingling and chats over many cups of coffee.

Other Coast Guard sectors and regions have also had good Industry Days. Boston is having one right now. Still, a number of places are missing out on a great opportunity to communicate with one another and talk face-to-face, instead of through faceless emails or phone calls after something bad happens. Everyone benefits and learns at these events.

This year’s agenda in Virginia included presentations on bridge resource management, first aid, survival equipment, water survival, synthetic lines/handling, survival suits, licensing and regs information, and a review of some of some recent accidents for Lessons Learned. In past years there have been demos of helo rescues, hands-on flares training and firefighting. This year there were liferaft demos in the swimming pool.

If your area has an Industry Day, I recommend you attend. If your area doesn’t have one, approach the Coast Guard and other stakeholders where you operate and recommend that one be held.

Sail safe!

A collection of stories from guest authors.