Dealing with Coast Guard inspections is a fact of life for most of us in the passenger vessel industry. We have been inspected for more than 50 years and are accustomed to working with inspectors during and after a vessel inspection.

I have seen many Coast Guard inspectors cycle through as their tours of duty take them from port to port. Through the years, I have worked with good and not so good inspectors. We are committed to the ideal that we will work with inspectors professionally no matter their skill levels. I can deal with the different skill levels, but I have a hard time dealing with inspectors who arrive at my operation with a poor attitude and the belief that I am the enemy.

As a responsible passenger vessel operator, I am committed to safety. I don’t cut corners on items such as preventative maintenance, crew training and manning. I am insulted when a Coast Guard inspector shows up with an angry attitude. It makes for a long day and is a poor customer service experience. I have had many positive experiences with inspectors over the years, but one negative experience can cast a dark shadow on all the rest.

At BB Riverboats, we strive to achieve good customer service in all aspects of our operation. Our employees are trained to value customers and treat them with respect. This is how we build solid long-term relationships that result in repeat business. Without these positive customer interactions, we would not survive in this business.

In a move to take domestic passenger vessel safety standards to the next level, the Passenger Vessel Association (PVA) has developed Flagship, a safety management system. This scalable program is designed to assist passenger vessel operators in managing and enhancing safety through risk analysis, corrective action, and continuous improvement. BB Riverboats is currently implementing this important new PVA program. As a longtime participant in the Coast Guard’s Streamlined Inspection Program (SIP), the two programs should demonstrate our commitment to safety improvement and, hopefully, earn the respect of inspectors.

In the late 1990s, Coast Guard Adm. Jim Card promoted an excellent program called “Prevention Through People.” Under this program, he stressed the importance of honoring the mariner. Unfortunately, over the years this concept has been lost on many of our Coast Guard inspectors.

I strongly encourage the Coast Guard to stress the importance of providing good customer service in their inspector training programs. After all, isn’t it all about working together to promote safety and our shared responsibility to protect the lives of passengers and crew?

Alan Bernstein, owner of BB Riverboats in Cincinnati, is a licensed master and a former president of the Passenger Vessel Association. He can be reached at 859-292-2449 or [email protected].