A Year After Harvey, AWO Touts Industry Resiliency

During its recent 2018 Fall Convention in Houston, Texas, the members of The American Waterways Operators (AWO) heard from AWO Chairman Tom Marian, general counsel at Buffalo Marine Service Inc., who reflected on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey making landfall and the resiliency of both Houston and the tugboat, towboat and barge industry nationwide.

“Despite all the turmoil, the loss of irreplaceable items, and a tremendous uncertainty as to how order will be restored, it was all too apparent that others genuinely cared,” said Marian. “The outpouring of help from neighbors, businesses and strangers from distant states was extraordinarily heart-warming.

“Undoubtedly, our nation’s fourth largest city was put to the test. Thankfully, due to the efforts of many [AWO member companies], we conquered unprecedented adversity and quickly restored commerce to one of the country’s most critical waterways. …In the end, it was not about protecting your individual bottom lines but combining forces to affect a solution that was beneficial to all. This was borne out of the simple reality that a shared resource warrants a cooperative and selfless response. The waterways had to be restored as expeditiously as possible.”

Marian went on to note that while the tugboat, towboat and barge industry played a pivotal role in helping Houston recover from this historic weather event, the industry itself remains confronted with the challenges of navigating uncertain economic and public policy environments.   

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“As we all know, ours is an industry that has suffered through some very tough economic storms over the past several years. If that wasn’t enough, we’ve also experienced heavy weather on the public policy fronts,” said Marian. “Specifically, the Jones Act is a perennial target of unfounded attacks. Meanwhile, we continue to be confronted by activist states seeking to impose unconstitutional restrictions on vessel operations. And, we are now operating under the new regulatory framework of Subchapter M—a ‘new normal’ that holds great promise for the safety of our mariners and our waterways. Yet, we must also navigate with great skill to ensure that promise is fulfilled.

“…Much like the city in which we are gathered, we are a resilient industry that provides for our nation, even when times get rough. With AWO in our corner, I am confident that we will continue to achieve the policy victories and exercise the safety leadership that our industry’s long-term success and sustainability demand. I’m looking forward to accomplishing this together.”