TTB 2022: Panel discusses drop in quality workforce for maritime and how to fix it

Written by Heather Ervin
Maritime workforce panel at TTB 2022

From Left to Right: Stephen Polk, Capt. Dave Mackey, and Rick Schwab.

On March 30—Day 2 of Marine Log’s TTB 2022 conference for the tug, towboat and barge industry—three expert panelists will discuss ways in which the tug, towboat and barge industry can better help companies recruit and retain quality candidates through their programs.

As many in the marine industry have experienced, there’s been a drop in hiring quality workers. What is causing this and how can it be fixed? This panel aims to discuss that and more.

The audience will be invited to ask the panelists questions immediately following the discussion.


  • Rick Schwab, Senior Director, Workforce Development and Education, Maritime and Industrial Training Center, Delgado Community College
  • Stephen Polk, Director, SCI’s Center for Maritime Education
  • Capt. Dave Mackey, Marine Transportation Department Chair (Tugs & Towing), Massachusetts Maritime Academy


  • What challenges have led to a drop in the mariner workforce in the United States;
  • What role do training providers and educators play in developing pathways for the sustainable mariner workforce needed for today’s marketplace;
  • Whether there are methods or best practices we should explore to rebuild the workforce and how schools can collaborate with the industry on these things; and more.  

View the complete agenda or register for TTB 2022.


Schwab is a leader in development, implementation, and management of high-value corporate maritime training operations for over 26 years. He has been successful in capturing new business and establishing relationships with key decision makers, strengthening corporate value, reducing operating cost, implementing rapid response methodologies, and improving bottom line through innovation, creativity, and strategic organizational leadership.

He has exhibited dynamic performance as a take-charge leader with account acquisition, interpersonal skills, and management talents that guarantee growth and client loyalty.

Schwab was named New Orleans Citi Business Top 20 Most Powerful Maritime Executives in 2020. He was also recognized as a 2021 Center of Excellence for Domestic Maritime Workforce Training and Education, and he co-authored the first state of Louisiana Incumbent Worker Grant.


Polk is a 1997 graduate of Texas A&M University at Galveston. He has experience on towing vessels, container ships, MODUs, product tankers, and crude oil tankers. He is a U.S. Navy veteran, where he served 12 years and was honorably discharged as Lieutenant Commander in 2009.

At SCI, he actively teaches and manages training for inland and sea going mariners on vessels ranging from tugboats to supertankers. He has been at SCI for 15 years, and, more recently, has extensive experience performing feasibility studies. His previous experience on engineering projects includes: eight dock projects, five bridge projects, and five port studies.

Polk supervises SCI’s Center for Maritime Education centers in Houston, Texas, and Paducah, Ky. 


Mackey is chairman of the Marine Transportation Department at Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA), where he has served as a professor for over 20 years. In this role, he works with leadership to ensure MMA provides the very best experiential learning experience to its cadets. In the classroom, simulators and onboard the T/S Kennedy, Mackey emphasizes how to operate vessels safely and efficiently, with an approach grounded in a rules of the road, principles of good seamanship philosophy. 

Recognizing industry trends early on, Mackey was the founder of the MMA’s state-of-the-art tugs and towing program providing students the opportunity to achieve the Mate of Towing Vessels endorsement on their Merchant Marine Credential. Before embarking on his teaching career, he sailed with various shipping companies. He holds multiple licenses, including a Master of Steam or Motor Vessels, Any Gross Tons Upon Oceans, Master of Towing Vessels Upon Oceans and First Class Pilot. Captain Mackey is also an expert witness/maritime consultant for high profile legal cases involving commercial and recreational vessel accidents.

TTB 2022

The American Waterways Operators (AWO) is partnering with Marine Log on the event scheduled for March 29-30 at the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel in Mobile, Ala. TTB 2022 is the only event of its kind exclusively for the tug, towboat and barge industry, where it brings the blue and brown water sectors into one unique venue for two days of expert-led testimonies and education that will enable attendees to make better business decisions in the future.

The venue, located in Mobile Bay off the Spanish River, is not only close to museums, golf courses and the USS Alabama, it’s also close to industry shipyards, including Austal USA, Alabama Shipyard, Metal Shark Alabama, the Port of Mobile, and more. There are numerous other shipyards, terminals and industry suppliers close by.

In addition to two days of in-person discussions and dynamic Q&A sessions, the event will feature ample opportunities for networking.

As maritime recovers from COVID-19 and handles the challenges of finding and maintaining a quality workforce, the tug, towboat and barge industry is expected to experience continued growth and innovation under a new regulatory landscape and on the cusp of technological advances. The collaboration between Marine Log and the AWO enables both organizations to share resources and industry knowledge in support of the TTB industry at this critical juncture.

As ever, a focus of the program will be on lessons learned from hard-earned, real-life experience. In addition, the program will explore new ways to meet economic and environmental targets through advances in technology, finding new opportunities for the TTB market in offshore, and the latest trends in vessel design.


TTB 2022 guests will have the unique opportunity to visit Austal USA, one of the country’s premier military defense shipyards that specialize in the design, construction and support of military and commercial vessels.

Space will be limited to 80 guests, who will board two buses at the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel and head to Austal USA’s shipyard in Mobile for a guided tour. Each bus will start at a separate area of the shipyard—the main campus (Bus 1) and the West Campus (Bus 2).

Bus 1 will tour the outside of the Module Manufacturing Facility, where guests will go around the perimeter of the final assembly bays to see where the future USNS Cody (EPF 14), USS Augusta (LCS 34), and the Kingsville (LCS 36) are being erected.

Guests will also tour Austal USA’s vessel completion yard, where the future USS Canberra (LCS 30) and USS Santa Barbara (LCS 32) are berthed in preparation for sea trials and delivery.

Attendees on Bus 2 will start out at Austal USA’s ship repair facility, where Facility Director Harley Combs will demonstrate the improvements Austal USA has made to the facility and explain what repair capabilities are available to customers.

The buses will trade places so all tour participants can see both Austal USA campuses.

Austal USA’s main shipbuilding facility in Mobile is a 165-acre campus on the east bank of the Mobile River that includes four final assembly bays, a 700,000-square-foot Module Manufacturing Facility, two office buildings, an administration building housing the Navy’s program support staff, and a drive-through warehouse. Austal has also constructed a Vessel Completion Yard that serves as the final location for its ships prior to acceptance trials, delivery and sail away.

In 2020, Austal USA purchased 15 acres of waterfront property on the west side of the Mobile River and established a ship service and maintenance facility. The Austal USA West Campus includes a 20,000-ton Panamax-class floating drydock and 100,000 square feet of covered repair facilities.

Austal USA entered the steel shipbuilding market in 2021, breaking ground on the company’s steel manufacturing line positioning the company to start steel production in April 2022. The 117,000-square-foot manufacturing addition will house the latest state-of-the-art computerized and robotic steel processing equipment that has been specified to handle all of the current and future demands of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard.


  • Currently, the growing list of event sponsors includes Sea Machines, ABB, and Navtek (platinum); Austal USA, Bergan Marine Systems, and Hiller Systems (gold);
  • Crowley Maritime, American Ship Repair, Motor-Services Hugo Stamp Inc., Elkon, Karl Senner, Elliott Bay Design Group, MTU—A Rolls-Royce Solution, Schottel, Christie & Grey, Altra Industrial Motion, Industrial Service Solutions, SSI, Steerprop, Great Lakes Power, Altra Industrial Motion, Marine and Industrial Rigging and Testing Solutions, Offshore Inland Marine & Oilfield Services Inc., Electronic Marine Systems, Acuity International, Ships Machinery International, and Moxie Media (silver); and
  • Metal Shark Boats, Bristol Harbor Group, TowWorks, Louisiana CAT / Thompson Marine, JonRie, Panolin, MOPS, Phoenix, Tnemec, KVH, United Safety & Survivability Corporation, Conrad Shipyard, RA Mitchell, Coastal Marine Equipment Inc., Separator Spares & Equipment, RIX Industries, Vulkan Couplings, DMT Marine Equipment, Docktech, Hockema Group Inc., Delgado Community College, and On Site Alignment (bronze).
  • American Equity Underwriters (AEU) will sponsor the cocktail reception at the closing of Day 1. W&O Supply is sponsoring lunch. Laborde/Mitsubishi is sponsoring lanyards.

Registration for event is open. For questions on sponsorships, please contact David Harkey at

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