Captain Tom Dameron
Chincoteague, Virginia - Summer, 1983
After Tom’s junior year at West Virginia University, he hit the beach in Chincoteague, Virginia. His summer love turned out to be commercial fishing in the Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog fishery. The following winter he decided to earn his USCG masters license and work toward running his own boat.
Along with the Coast Guard license, he eventually upgraded to a 1600-ton masters license, and by age 25 was making trips as captain. After studying stability and deck seamanship for his USCG licenses; however, he realized there was some disconnect between the standard procedures of his fishery and the best practices he was learning.
Amendment 8 and off to Alaska – 1991
The Atlantic Surfclam/Ocean Quahog Fishery Management Plan Amendment 8 passed, and consolidation eliminates Tom’s fleet which had since moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey. Arctic Alaska Fisheries Corporation responded to his employment application.
They needed a first mate on the new scallop processor, Arctic Rose, and he was off to Alaska. Fishing the Atlantic Ocean in the winter was dangerous, but fishing the waters off Alaska became a whole new ballgame and one played with a different intensity when it came to safety. A large percentage of Tom’s new crewmembers had Coast Guard credentials. Safety was structured and taken very seriously. Tom worked three contracts with Arctic Alaska and learned being methodical about safety management had advantages.
Drill Conductor Certification and introduction to NPFVOA and AMSEA - 1994
Regulations went into effect requiring drill conductor certification and Tom took one of the first classes offered by the North Pacific Fishing Vessel Owner Association (NPFVOA) and Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) at the Pacific Fish Expo in Seattle, Washington. He adopted the structured methodology, learned fishing in Alaska, and borrowed from safety management documentation produced by NPFVOA and AMSEA. With new training skills under his belt, Tom began conducting drills and giving emergency instruction to his crew, performing regular inspections on his vessel’s emergency equipment to run a safe boat and comply with the new regulations.
Tragedy Strikes – January, 1999
In the course of 13 days, four clam boats sank in the Atlantic and took with them the lives of ten men. Tom had known all four boats well and worked as captain on one of the vessels for several weeks while filling in for a captain recovering from a back injury. He was friends with most of the men lost and had even given one man his first job on the water just a few years before. One of the several funerals Tom attended was for Captain Ed McLaughlin.
Ed had been a friend, a loving husband, father of a young son and captain of the Beth Dee Bob. During the service, a plea went out to the men and women sitting in the pews to stop the loss of life in the commercial fishing industry due to safety lapses. Tom had been thinking about the need for a culture of methodical safety management and never forgot the funeral plea.
Safety Management – 2000
Tom was a bit of an anomaly in the fleet in that he regularly submitted structured safety management documentation to the owner, even though none was actually required. Eventually, he was asked to come off the water a couple weeks a month to take on the safety management duties for the entire fleet of company vessels. Tom established Shipboard Emergency Action Company (SEACO) and started to grow his contacts outside of the fleet as well, while he continued to fish two weeks on, two off.
The Move to Digital – 2002
A digital solution was needed to keep track of all the equipment, crew, and documentation for the growing number of vessels Tom serviced. Eventually, a recent graduate of Virginia Tech was hired to code a safety management system (SMS). As a result, Tom had originated the idea for a Pocket PC mobile app years before the iPhone would make mobile apps popular. Every month, a single lesson plan was developed that was used for each vessel serviced during that month. The application tracked individual vessel equipment, expiration dates, crew members, & failed items and would produce documentation after each vessels’ monthly safety meeting.
Sunderland Marine – 2004
The documentation and safety management structure produced by his SMS caught the eye of Sunderland Marine during a fleet annual policy review and Tom was asked to become a service provider for additional fishing vessels they insured. At a meeting with Sunderland underwriters, Tom was asked to think about how he could expand the SMS he was using and the idea for a more inclusive platform started to develop. Tom understood that the digital SMS he was using for SEACO could benefit many captains, owners, and crew members if he could get the application into the hands of other captains. In September 2005, Tom was awarded a certificate of appreciation from the city of New Bedford, Massachusetts, for his role in getting the New Bedford Fishermen Safety Training Program off the ground.
Development of a Safety Management Platform - 2015
Tom first turned to his developer from Virginia Tech to build a Safety Management Platform for the commercial fishing industry, but the platform was more than one developer could pull off. Additional efforts at partnering with developers moved the thesis forward and got a minimum viable product (MVP) into the hands of some users, but ultimately failed to get the SMS over the finish line. Having the MVP eventually proved invaluable. Tom met with investors and mentors for whom he could demonstrate the application and get advice. Eventually, he was introduced to a development firm in Philadelphia that claimed to be able to handle the project. Four years later they were still struggling and a fourth development agency was brought aboard who brought the application up to the standards to be expected for a SMS.
Launched - December 2022
After meticulously defining the functionality of what he believed to be the perfect safety management platform for the commercial fishing industry, multiple development agencies were contracted to make it happen. A safety management platform for everyone who wanted to participate finally came to life. Manufacturers, training institutes, content providers, service providers, and most importantly, companies that value efficiency and letting their teams concentrate on what is most important now have a safety management platform MAKING SAFER EASIER!
The goal for Overboard Solutions was always to reduce friction in the safety management process. The web application, SafetyConnections does just that and the MobileApp makes it user friendly both onshore or off. Vessel Management will find safety management much easier using the platform. Closer connections with content providers, manufacturers of emergency equipment, service providers and crews are now quickly possible. All your safety management pain points were taken into account when building the platform because Tom had experienced them firsthand.