TTB 2022: Workforce Panel on Recruitment, Retention and Diversity

Written by Heather Ervin
Left to Right: Del Wilkins, Jenny Johnson, and Kasey Eckstein.

Left to Right: Del Wilkins, Jenny Johnson, and Kasey Eckstein.

On March 29—Day 1 of Marine Log’s TTB 2022 conference for the tug, towboat and barge industry—three expert panelists will discuss ways in which tug, towboat and barge companies can better recruit and retain quality candidates and why diversity matters in doing so. 

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


  • Del Wilkins, President, Illinois Marine Towing; VP, Canal Barge; Chairman, AWO
  • Jenny Johnson, Director of Labor Experience and Recruitment, Crowley
  • Kasey Eckstein, Founder, Women in Maritime Operations (WIMOs); Sales, Ingram Barge


  • How to recruit and retain quality marine candidates;
  • Why having a diverse workforce is crucial to a well-rounded business operation;
  • What maritime companies can do to promote an inclusive workforce; and
  • How other maritime organizations, such as the U.S. Coast Guard, can make the certification process more accessible; and
  • How companies should handle or respond to sexual harassment claims.

View the complete agenda or register for TTB 2022.


AWO Chairman Wilkins joined Canal Barge in 2007, after serving in executive leadership roles at CSX Corporation, American Commercial Lines LLC (ACL), and National Marine Inc., starting his career with Dravo Corporation in Pittsburgh.

While at ACL, he served as president and executive director of ACBL Hidrovias, S.A. and ACBL of Venezuela, S.A. He spent 14 years in South America in the area of project start-up and infrastructure development in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Venezuela. He has also carried out exploratory and consulting missions on the inland river systems of Europe, China, and Africa.

He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, with a business concentration and Northwestern University’s Transportation Center. He has held a First-Class Operators license on the U.S. inland waterway system.

He is active involvement in industry affairs includes serving as a board member of Wintrust Bank’s Beverly Bank & Trust, N.A., Chicago, Ill.; the American Waterways Operators Association (AWO), Washington, D.C.; and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Infrastructure Council, Chicago.


As Crowley’s director of labor experience and recruitment, Johnson drives the company’s leading organizational transformation in diversity, equity, inclusion, and engagement.

With 25 years in the maritime industry, including eight years as a mariner, Johnson has the unique perspective and valuable experience to create, develop and implement programs to enhance the entire labor experience and engagement as well as to attract, retain and advance top talent at Crowley.

In addition, she leads a dedicated team to oversee all labor recruitment, maritime scholarships, cadet shipping, SASH prevention and DE&I programs specific to unionized workforce.


Kasey Eckstein, a 2021 Marine Log Top Women in Maritime recipient, works in sales at Ingram Barge Company and is the founder and executive director of Women in Maritime Operations (WIMOs) Association.

Her career in the marine industry began in 2014, when she started selling barge freight at Marquette Transportation. Marquette is a company that her grandfather, Ray Eckstein, founded and she realized that she was given many opportunities that other women in the industry were not.

In 2017, Eckstein founded WIMOs, which works to educate, engage and elevate women working for maritime operators. The organization now has over 500 individual members (140+ member companies) across 22 states. She was the youngest director to ever sit on the board of the Mississippi Valley Trade & Transport Council and she was a recipient of the Inland Marine Expo’s 40 Under 40 award in 2018.

Eckstein currently works in sales for Ingram Barge Company, which is the largest barge line in the U.S. She is on the liquids team at Ingram, but also cross-sells into Ingram’s other divisions.

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, Industrial Service Solutions, SSI, Steerprop, Great Lakes Power, Marine and Industrial Rigging and Testing Solutions, Acuity 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, 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.

Registration for event is now open. The next Early Bird registration discount ends on February 25.

For questions on sponsorships, please contact David Harkey at

Categories: Coastal, Inland Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,