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Waterway’s Carpenter says “There’s no room for sexual harassment…in the maritime industry”

Jennifer Carpenter, President, and CEO of the American Waterways Operators (AWO) said that there is a challenge recruiting more workers to operate inland waterway vessels and the inclusion of women is vital.

Toward that end, she said “There is no room for sexual harassment or bullying in the maritime industry.”

Carpenter was responding to a question about the rape of a female U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Midshipman. Midshipmen X anonymously reported that she was raped during the ‘Sea Year’ training program on a U.S. flagged ship. The program and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at King’s Point, New York were the subject of repeated warnings about the need for better controls and safety. Since then, there have been revelations of sexual harassment and racist attacks at several other U.S. maritime schools.

Jennifer Carpenter, President, and CEO of the American Waterways Operators

Sexual Harassment & Female Inclusion

In an interview with AJOT, Carpenter said: “We are not going to have a culture where anyone feels unsafe in this industry. This industry must be committed to stamping out sexual harassment and bullying where ever it exists. We are eager to work with the U.S. Coast Guard and with Congress to make sure that sexual assault and sexual harassment is prohibited and enforced by legislation so that the Coast Guard can go after the licenses of perpetrators and get them off the boats. It’s not enough to say it’s safe here you are not going to get assaulted. Yeah, I hope not, but that is not enough. We’ve got to do better than that and create an environment that is welcoming to people.”

But a lot still needs to be done: “I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say we are 90% of the way there because we are not. We have a long way to go to get to a more inclusive industry. I am encouraged because I think there is a great commitment to create that inclusive environment and that we are on the way to make that happen. So, for women I would say there is a place for you. And we need you! Come on in! If there is anything that is unacceptable or unsafe, say something or do something so we can stamp that out.”

Maritime Career Possibilities

Carpenter said that a major challenge is recruiting younger people to make a career in the maritime industry: “So, we want to attract people who believe: ‘Yeah, I think it’s cool to work on the water’ and ‘Yeah, I want to be part of building out the offshore wind industry in this country’ and ‘Yeah, I want to move America’s energy products on the water so we are not dependent on offshore energy suppliers such as Vladimir Putin.’ There’s a lot of good about this industry and I think there are people who want to be part of this. We need to create an environment where people feel like ‘my work will be recognized and my work will be rewarded.’ “

Jones Act Waivers

As a result of actions by Congress and the Biden administration attempts to undermine U.S. build and U.S. manning requirements as provided under the Jones Act have been reduced: “I want to thank Congress and the Biden Administration who have taken a very firm stance against unnecessary waivers of the Jones Act. So, Congress in the last National Defense Authorization Act that passed in 2021 put guardrails around new Jones Act waivers which limit them in duration and which require more transparency which make even more explicit the need for a clear National Defense justification. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration has held the line against Jones Act waivers despite considerable pressure. There have been opportunistic efforts to request waivers due to the global instability with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the rise of energy prices: My responses are: Don’t do it…It’s not legal and it’s not needed.”

Wind Industry

Carpenter says there is potential for new jobs and vessel operation business for the growing U.S. offshore wind industry: “I am the Vice President of the American Maritime Partnership which is the Jones Act Coalition. I also chair AMP’s offshore wind committee and I am really passionate about this because there is so much opportunity for American maritime in offshore wind. This is also a great opportunity for energy independence and greenhouse gas emission reductions … We are building up an industry from the ground up. It did not exist before. Sometimes we hear: ‘Why can’t we do things the way we did in Europe?’ and the answer is because this isn’t Europe. The question should be how can we meet policy objectives in compliance with U.S. law. Developers are engaging in partnerships with domestic maritime so you’ve got DEME Offshore partnering with Foss Maritime on the Vineyard Wind project (offshore Massachusetts). You’ve got Maersk and Kirby working together to build out Empire Wind (offshore New York State). Kirby is the largest U.S. tank barge operator. They didn’t have a wind division. Now they do. That tells you something about the opportunity for American maritime.”

Carpenter says she sees new opportunities developing as a result of Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project. Dominion says that when fully constructed in 2026, the CVOW project will “deliver up to 8.8 million megawatts per year of clean, renewable energy to the grid, powering up to 660,000 Virginia homes. Providing this power with wind energy will avoid as much as 5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually—the equivalent of planting more than 80 million trees.”

Carpenter notes: “In my state of Virginia, you have Dominion Energy ordering a U.S. flagged wind turbine installation vessel at a U.S. shipyard. That’s the Keppel Shipyard in Brownsville, Texas. Dominion seized the business case for that. That’s fantastic. There’s money to be made here, I’m really bullish. Holding out for a Jones Act waiver is a loser… That dog don’t hunt. Recognize what the rules are and talk to the people who can meet your needs.”

US Shipbuilding

Carpenter says shipbuilding is a critical industry: “It is so important to our economic security. Do we want to build ships in China? That’s a ridiculous question in the current environment. We need the same attitude of priority and urgency contracting for workers in the shipbuilding industry as we are looking to attract workers in the maritime industry. I feel very good about the capability of U.S. shipyards to do what needs to be done to build out offshore wind. This is very much in the U.S. wheelhouse for feeder barges, ATBs (Articulated Tug Barges), tugs, to move floating wind components. We’re good at that in the U.S. … These are all things we have all done in the oil and gas sector. U.S. shipyards have long and good experience with these types of vessels and we can transfer that expertise to the offshore wind industry.”

New Market Opportunities for Inland and Coastal Vessels

There is more to be done to fully use the potential of the waterways and inland rivers to move cargo “in an environmental and sustainable way to get freight off crowded highways and away from population centers.”

She says: “Shippers’ experience over the last couple of years during the pandemic and supply chain disruptions and challenges with other modes, have people looking with new eyes at the potential of the waterways. I think that’s fantastic! Of course, there is work to be done to ensure you have the shoreside infrastructure support. So maybe it’s worth shippers doing a little upfront work to ensure that they have alternatives in transportation…”

She notes that when the Colonial Pipeline was the victim of a ransomware attack in May 2021, it infected some of the pipeline's digital systems, shutting them down for several days: “When the Colonial Pipeline was down, you had inland barges who could move fuel to Nashville, Evansville, Illinois, and Paducah, Kentucky because there were rivers there and that kept people able to fuel their cars. That’s an example of how taking full advantage of our waterways gives us resiliency and it allows us to deal with transportation and logistics challenges, whether they are natural disasters, a pandemic, or some criminal act…”

She added: “Let’s take advantage of funds provided in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to invest in shoreside port infrastructure. There’s a huge opportunity there.”

Lower Emissions

Carpenter sees progress in the waterways industry reducing emissions but cites the importance of U.S. Department of Energy funding and support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): “As we talk about sustainability, and lower zero carbon fuel there is an opportunity that the Department of Energy program for advanced vehicles and technology can help the industry. Vessel owners, and not just manufacturers of electric motor vehicles, can take advantage of funding opportunities to test innovative technologies in a maritime environment. Whether utilizing hydrogen or methanol fuel alternatives, testing these would be extremely constructive. Also, the EPA has a program that has been funded for engine repowering. There is a need to expand those programs because there is a lot of innovation out there. Being able to really implement new carbon reduction technologies at scale is going to require a lot of money. So, more funding for these programs enables vessel owners as well as ports to get out and install cleaner technology. Robustly funding these programs would be a positive next step. AWO has got a CEO level task force looking at decarbonization and it is going to be meeting later this Fall and one of the questions that was put out to the group is to help us put a little more clarity around our public policy agenda and what else would help. So, we may have some more asks when we dig a little deeper into this.”

Prospects for 2022

Carpenter says the industry’s economic fortunes are improving:

“It’s a lot better than 2021, and a lot better than 2020. I will say that the glass is half full. There has been a significant demand for marine transportation and that’s a good thing. The caveat is our work force challenges: you’ve got to have the people to take advantage of these opportunities. Also, everything is more expensive from steel, to paint, to engine components. And those are challenges. But I’m bullish on the future of this industry.”

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis

WEST COAST CORRESPONDENT

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