October 2021 Commerce Club Featuring Captain Jason Smith, Commander, Sector Houston-Galveston, USCG

Port Bureau News ,

Telling the Sector Houston-Galveston Story of the Last Year

Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard.

Captain Jason Smith, Commander of Sector Houston-Galveston (“the Sector”) for the U.S. Coast Guard, brought Commerce Club attendees up-to-date on the events of 2021, focusing on the area partnerships that help their team better ensure the safety, security, and stewardship of the local Marine Transportation System. The event was hosted by the Greater Houston Port Bureau at the Houston Marriott South on October 14.

Sector Houston-Galveston areas of responsibility extend from Freeport, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana, and is comprised of over 1500 activity duty, civilian, and reserve personnel. This area encompasses five of the 20 busiest ports in the nation as well as 247 miles of Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Together these ports and waterways account for 25% of the total U.S. tonnage by ships.

“There is lots to protect, both environmentally and economically, and we couldn’t do all that we do without our partnerships,” stated Captain Smith.

Safety

Over the last year, the Sector conducted over 3,000 vessel inspections and over 1200 facility inspections.  Voyage terminations numbered 36. They partnered with Galveston-Texas City Pilots to promote best safety practices and more open communication with fishing vessels and other traffic. The Coast Guard Auxiliary also assisted in this safety outreach effort with deep draft traffic to help resolve the “small boat, big wake” issues that occur. This project was held in cooperation with Lone Star Harbor Safety Committee in developing out their published safety guidelines.

Security

Working with law enforcement is a significant safety priority and the support of the Houston Ship Channel Security District (“the Security District”) has played a pivotal role. Essential funding is provided by the Security District to elevate communication systems and provide significant equipment assets to the agencies involved in monitoring and responding to hazards or incidents.

Cybersecurity is an area of growing importance to the maritime industry. Locally, the Sector has been working in the area of maritime security partnerships. Captain Smith described these groups as helping to “close the circles” in potential cybersecurity gaps.

Environment

In protecting the marine environment, the Sector responded to just over 500 incidents during the last year. Of these, only 16 were federalized. Captain Smith credited industry for responsiveness and efficiency in handling environmental clean-up. In handling efforts, the Sector seeks to protect areas that are environmentally sensitive as well as those that are economically sensitive.

Heavy Weather Events

Sector Houston-Galveston stood up 18 times for weather events over the last twelve months. The Sector has finalized its implementation of a modified port condition track for low certainty/low severity events, allowing early indication that the ports will not be closed, allowing the maritime community to focus on other heavy weather mitigation measures.  “Keep things moving -- keeping commerce moving is always important to us,” Captain Smith said.

Education Partnerships

Sector Houston-Galveston is stepping up outreach in the community to introduce the next generation to the Coast Guard. For example, Baytown Nature center hosted the Sector at their annual Nurture Nature Festival, giving them opportunity share with the about 3,000 attendees about the many missions the Coast Guard engages in on a daily basis. The Sector is also expanding partnerships with educators. At present, the Sector plans to become more involved with Texas Southern University and in the maritime high schools in the area.

“We are always looking for ways to get more involved with the community – with the young people who will be sitting here in 20 years,” Captain Smith concluded.

Thank you to our Commerce Club sponsors:

Enterprise Products Partners • Kinder Morgan • Houston Pilots • Houston Mooring • Intercontinental Terminals Company • Moran Shipping Agencies, Inc. • Regions Bank • Targa Resources • West Gulf Maritime Association