top of page

Panel 6

Thursday, November 17, 2022
COVID 19 Lessons Learned and Planning For the Next Black Swan Event

CAPT David B. Moskoff, MARITECH

 “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!, no…”, it’s a flock of black swans preparing to light on churning waters and waves, a maritime landing risk for our feathered friends. The famous excerpted “Superman” opening quote was typically a portend of good news for the good guys, and bad news for the bad guys. Why, because a readied Superman was making his splashy arrival on scene to manage predictable and unpredictable catastrophes, including threats to humankind and acts of nature like ocean storms and flooding. But that was in cartoons.  

Nassim Taleb coined the term ‘black swan’ “for an unpredictable, rare, catastrophic event, in his best- selling 2007 book of that title”. Now known since at least April 2020, the infamous and deadly word-number “COVID-19” took on a life of its own, with ensuing lively debate about its predictability or perhaps some other phenomenon giving rise to its existence.

Panel 6 will examine the lessons learned from our COVID-19 experiences and look toward the many other Black Swans that lie just ahead. Our esteemed panelists are primarily local to this region and include:

Thomas Wynne, Interlake Steamship

Thomas Wynne is Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of The Interlake Steamship Company, the largest privately held shipping company on the Great Lakes. Mr. Wayne will discuss how the company sought to identify COVID-19 “hot spot” locations where their people departed from, early in the COVID-19 crisis and how on arrival, they took precautions like quarantining before joining a vessel or closely working with others.

Patrick Parsons, The American Waterways Operators

Mr. Parsons will educate us on resiliency.  COVID-19, and other recent shocks to the U.S. transportation system like the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack and war in Europe, demonstrated the importance of resiliency. As the name implies, we don’t know what the next black swan event will be exactly, but we can build resiliency to better absorb the shock of a catastrophic event and more quickly adapt to it. In the maritime industry, there are two key components for building that resiliency: 1) strengthening government-industry relationships and communication, and 2) fortifying the domestic flag fleet and maritime industrial base.

Mr. Michael McElroy, Director of Marine Operations, Wendella Boats

Mr. McElroy questions what we all should be questioning. Nurturing communications and partnerships locally between agency and Industry is a critical step towards early detection, prevention and the impact of black swan events. Awareness and sharing of capabilities will serve as a force multiplier in recovering from a disastrous event. The ever-revolving door of Agency POC on the bang list can compromise the stasis you acquire so vigor is required in order to succeed.

Although passenger vessels carry the most precious cargo ever, we should all suffer from “chronic unease” in the Maritime Transportation System from the safety and security perspective. This means even those who are not part of your defense or system security should be trained on detection and reporting. They are an important part of your security and safety posture. The existing tiered approach to regulatory influence and MTSA applicability is beneficial financially for some operators due to their size but what vulnerabilities have we created? Industry is looking beyond the regulations and evolving in order to prepared for climate change, emergency events and critical incidents.


Testing the footprint of your ability to continuously improve. Are we measuring progress of safety management? Are we learning from our mistakes or just checking the box of big data? Are we listening or just hearing opportunities for improvement?

John Jorgensen, Independent Risk Methods Researcher

From Houston, Texas, super-panelist John Jorgensen, returns to MRS 2022 by popular demand. As a scientist and expert on maritime risk management, he will provide insights and information about “black swan” events and COVID-19 connected issues based on his decades of experience, training and research. An earlier MRS presenter on behalf of ABS as Chief Scientist, Mr. Jorgensen is a seasoned expert in "active risk management techniques, based on a best practice". John Jorgensen’s personal motto, “Learn now, learn always” epitomizes what happens every year at the energizing and educational MRS.

bottom of page