What goes on daily aboard inland tugs, towboats, barges, and other vessels that ply the U.S. inland waterways is, to say the least, unique.

Yes, tug and barge companies carry goods up, down, and across our rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water, and they assist ships that need help getting into and out of port. That’s their job. And they do it well.

But what about when things go wrong? That’s when you really want them in your corner. There is something innate about mariners that makes them run to the fire, not away from it.

At the American Waterways Operators meeting in Houston on March 1, AWO announced the inaugural winners of its new American Waterways Honor and Excellence in Rescue Operations (HERO) Award. The award recognizes rescues by AWO member company employees that demonstrate selflessness, skill, and bravery.

The inaugural awardees included six vessel crews from three AWO member companies:

• The crew aboard American Commercial Barge Line towboat Ron Callegan, for rescuing a crewmember from a fall overboard near the Plaquemine, La., ferry.
• The crew aboard ACBL’s towboat Safety Explorer, for rescuing a crewmember who had fallen overboard from another vessel.

• The crew working for Great Lakes Dredge and Dock who, while working on the Houston Ship Channel Project, rescued three civilians from the water after their boat caught fire.

• The crew aboard the Ingram Barge Co. towboat Mary K. Cavarra, for rescuing a person in the water near the St. Paul (Minn.) riverfront.

• The crew aboard the Ingram Barge towboat Michael J. Granger, for rescuing a distressed automobile driver who had entered the water near Paducah, Ky.

• The crew aboard the Ingram Barge towboat Midland, who responded to a health emergency on their vessel, rendering immediate care and supporting an airlift evacuation on the Illinois River.

“We are proud to recognize the inaugural recipients of the American Waterways HERO Award and we congratulate them on this achievement,” said AWO President and CEO Jennifer Carpenter. “These crews exemplify the purpose of our launching this award: to recognize the heroism of the men and women of America’s tugboat, towboat and barge industry, whose actions prevent harm and save lives on the water every day.”


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.