Plimsolls awarded to towing industry safety educator, lock-and-dam advocacy group, developer of electronic collision-avoidance system


The editors of Professional Mariner have presented this year’s Plimsoll Awards for Outstanding Service to a maritime academy professor who is an advocate for safer towing operators, to an organization dedicated to modernizing the nation’s inland navigation infrastructure and to a company that has developed an electronic collision-avoidance system.

Capt. Eric Johansson, a professor at State University of New York Maritime College, was selected as a Plimsoll winner for outstanding service by an individual for his achievements in improving safety in the towing industry. Johansson, who teaches in the college’s Professional Education and Training Department, is founder of the annual Towing Forum.

Johansson is an active member on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Towing Safety Advisory Committee, where he has spearheaded safety-related reports on fire prevention, standardization of towing nomenclature and infrastructure within navigation channels. He serves on other committees that have addressed port security plans and harbor operations. Multiple nominators said Johansson has been at the forefront of efforts to identify ways to make towing safer.

“He was a forward thinker when he started the annual Towing Forum in 2000. This was one of the first meetings to discuss the issues facing the towing industry. The event has been successful through the ensuing years,” one nomination stated. “He was a trailblazer in helping identify the growing human resources need for brownwater operators with academy training,” said another.

The awards were presented March 18 at the Connecticut Maritime Association’s Shipping 2014 Conference in Stamford, Conn.

Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) received the award for outstanding service by an organization. WCI is the leading champion supporting greater government funding for an efficient national system of inland waterways. Based in Arlington, Va., WCI has rallied support from carriers, shippers, port authorities, agriculture, labor, conservation groups and other associations that favor modernizing and repairing the aging network of locks, dams and other navigation infrastructure.

As a direct result of WCI’s education and outreach, the recent budget agreement in Washington boosted the Army Corps of Engineers’ operations and maintenance budget by 25 percent. For the first time in six years, Congress is poised to pass a Water Resources Development Act to make additional critical investments.

The editors recognized WCI’s “outstanding efforts to significantly improve the well-being of mariners by advocating for increased efficiency in the inland navigation industry, therefore improving safety.”

Earning the Plimsoll Award for innovation this year is the Collision Avoidance DST system from Totem Plus. The electronic module, which is part of the Israeli company’s ECDIS product, serves as a decision-support tool (DST) for the officer of the watch. It processes various ARPA and AIS data and automatically analyzes all targets, identifying anything that could pose a collision danger. It then advises the officer on the best action that needs to be taken — course deviation, change of speed, etc. — fully in accordance with the ColRegs.

The system takes into account not only what is needed to prevent a collision with the identified target, but also what is needed to avoid a hazardous situation involving other vessels. The advice, which arrives in real time, is designed to reduce human error. It can even save fuel, because it can prevent excessive course alterations.

One shipping line that nominated Totem Plus calls the product “an innovative system that contributes to and enhances safety at sea.” At the Stamford awards ceremony, the Totem Plus representative in the U.S., Capt. Chaim Shacham, said he hopes the system will save the lives of many seafarers.

By Professional Mariner Staff