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33rd C-PORT Conference and Membership Meeting

January 20 - January 22, 2020
Rosen Plaza Hotel , Orlando, FL

Conference Recap:

The 2020 C-PORT Board of Directors was elected at the 33rd C-PORT Membership Meeting held on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 at the Rosen Plaza Hotel, Orlando FL.  Two current board members were re-elected to the C-PORT Board of Directors: Rob Butler, Big Bay Marine/TowBoatU.S. San Diego and Phil LeBlanc, Safe Sea/TowBoatU.S. Narragansett Bay. Phil was also appointed C-PORT Chairman for 2020.

The conference began with a Welcome Reception, sponsored by Compass Marine Services, featuring an open bar and Spanish Tapas and the opportunity to meet old friends and colleagues and make new ones.  Vendors were on deck at 8:00 AM on Tuesday morning to welcome the attendees over coffee and pastries sponsored by Starkweather & Shepley Insurance.  The exhibitors on display included: West Marine Pro; Subsalve USA; TowCoMobile Solutions; EZ Captain Hooks; Starkweather & Shepley Insurance; ConMar featuring 1st Watch, KBi, and icom; FLIR Maritime; Honda Marine; Metal Shark Boats; North River Boats; SKYDEX; Silver Ships; WING Inflatables; and Zodiac of NA.  The exhibitors were available to the attendees throughout the event.

Phil LeBlanc, C-PORT chairman, opened the conference sessions at 8:30 AM, welcoming the attendees and introducing the US Coast Guard, representing our decades old partnership. CDR Aurora Fleming, Chief, Policy Division, Office of Search and Rescue, opened the panel discussion honoring the 10 year anniversary of the rectification of the US Coast Guard- C-PORT Memorandum of Understanding.  The MOU has encouraged and supported communication and programs to the benefit of the industry and the Coast Guard departments that oversee it.  CDR Michael Keane, Chief, Policy and Competency Division, Office of Boat Forces, was introduced to the attendees.  He will be stepping in to fill the vacancy that CAPT Chris Keane will leave upon his retirement.  Engaging the members was LT Derek Wallin, Commanding Officer, USCG Station Fort Lauderdale, offering assistance in making those valuable connections with local USCG units.

Following the USCG panel discussion, Phil LeBlanc and Tina Cardone, C-PORT executive director, welcomed those attending the conference for the first time.  Prizes, sponsored by TowboatOne/TowBoatU.S. Palm Beach, were awarded to 2 first time attendees.  Bob Cox, West Marine Pro, a premium exhibitor, thanked the association for the work it does on behalf of the industry and thanked everyone for the long standing relationship developed over the years.  A networking break followed, sponsored by Reynolds Towing & Marine Service/TowBoatU.S. Bayshore.

Phil LeBlanc, co-owner Safe Sea and C-PORT chairman, and Rob Butler, owner Big Bay Marine Services and C-PORT director, presented “New Build or Refit? An Exercise in Acquiring a “New” Towboat”.  Using personal experiences, the pair compared and contrasted the costs associated and value of a new build or a refit when adding to their fleet of response and towing vessels.

Member anniversary celebrations were held at the C-PORT Awards Luncheon, sponsored by Safe Sea/TowBoatU.S. Narragansett Bay.  Guests were treated to a buffet of southern fried chicken and meatloaf, salads, mashed potatoes, green beans, cornbread, peach cobbler, apple crumb pie and pecan pie.  Cardone and LeBlanc honored members ranging from 5 years to 20 years, holding 25 year and 30 year member anniversaries until the evening banquet. 

Attendees returned from lunch for the 33rd C-PORT Membership Meeting.  Linda Wagner and Chris Burns of Starkweather & Shepley, along with Matt Miles and Erik Swanson of Travelers Insurance, provided a brief update on the Insurance Program and announcing survey changes for policy holders.  

An update of the association’s work, projects, and committee reports were lead by LeBlanc.  Highlights include:

  • C-PORT and US Coast Guard partner meetings included discussions of a standardized MOA for training with Sectors.; closer working relationship with USCG MER, Marine Environmental Response focusing on disaster response resulting in new guidance from USCG to unified command to include local salvors.
  • C-PORT participated on the USCG Merchant Mariner Exam Working Group to review and revise current license exams.  
  • Diligence paid off regarding RADAR Observer Endorsements.  New guidance states that those operating vessels with radar no longer need attend a refresher course to renew their endorsement.  Sea Time on vessels equipped with radar and use of the equipment may be used to renew the endorsement.
  • C-PORT participated in meetings around the country representing members’ interests including Boating Fly-ins hosted by NMMA in Florida and Michigan; ABC –American Boating Congress; and CBC – California Boating Congress
  • Congress had mandated a USCG study regarding PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Points) and how it is affecting response to maritime situations.  C-PORT has been working with our US Coast Guard partners,  NENA, National Emergency Number Association, and NASBLA, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, to develop training materials for dispatch centers to adhere to MSAP, the USCG Maritime SAR Assistance Policy.
  • C-PORT met a number of times with Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to develop a closer working relation with disaster recovery as well as derelict vessel removal.
  • Strong relationships continue with ASA, American Salvage Association where Cardone is a member of their regulatory affairs committee; and with NASBLA, National State Boating Law Administrators.  Chris Shaffner was named to represent our industry on the NASBLA Boat Advisory Board.
The afternoon networking break was sponsored by Biscayne Towing & Salvage/TowBoatU.S. Miami and Miller’s Towing & Salvage/TowBoatU.S. Sandy Hook.

The 33rd C-PORT Conference continued on Wednesday, January 22, 2020 with general and training sessions.  The morning began with a continental breakfast, sponsored by Travelers Insurance/Ocean Marine.  Attendees had an additional opportunity to talk with vendors before the first session.
Phil LeBlanc, C-PORT chairman, welcomed everyone back to the conference and introduced the first speaker of the morning, Mr. Robert Milana, Esq., Travelers Ocean Marine Claims Major Case Professional.  Mr. Milana spoke to the group about “How to Assemble a Successful Salvage Claim…so you don’t have to salvage your salvage claim.”  

Following, were Mr. Andrew Craven, Esq. and Mr. Marcus Mafhood, Esq., Partners, The Chartwell Law Offices.  With the recent boating tragedies to include the dive boat fire in CA and the duck boat sinking in MO, the attorneys discussed company owner and management liability exposures when their crew makes a bad decision, and how to help prevent them.

After the afternoon break, sponsored by Yachting Specialties/TowBoatU.S. San Francisco Bay & Delta, C-PORT presented its newest risk management course.  Terry Hill, President and Instructor, Marine Emergency Response Group, and NASBLA (National Association of Boating Law Administrators) Certified Instructor, presented “Fuel and Fire-Risk Management Best Practices”. 

The C-PORT Awards Banquet and Gala, was sponsored by TowBoatU.S.  Guests feasted on steak, chicken, and grouper.  Awards were presented and membership anniversaries were celebrated.  Guests had the opportunity to sit and talk in a casual setting with CDR Keane, CDR Fleming, and LT Wallin. 

A number of Awards were presented during the Gala.

Presenting the AFRAS Lifesaving Award on behalf of AFRAS was Mr. Charles “Skip” Bowen, Master Chief of the USCG (retired), to Captain Bob DiSanto of TowBoatU.S. Block Island. 

Phil LeBlanc, C-PORT chairman, on behalf of the marine assistance towing and salvage industry, recognized Paul Amaral, TowBoatU.S. Ventura, for his heroic actions assisting with lifesaving efforts during the dive boat Conception fire.  Phil stated, “Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.

Members celebrated for their longstanding support of C-PORT included:

Celebrating 30 years of C-PORT Membership:
Geoff Burrows- High Sierra Marine/TowBoatU.S. Lake Tahoe
Ryan Moore- International Towing & Salvage
Mary Gilmer- Tow Jamm Marine/TowBoatU.S. Knapps Narrow

Celebrating 25 years of membership:
Robert Butler- Big Bay Marine Service/TowBoatU.S. San Diego