Current Outlook: U.S. Coast Guard and Sector Houston-Galveston

Port Bureau News, Newest Edition,

February Commerce Club Featuring Captain Keith Donahue, Commander, Sector Houston-Galveston, U.S. Coast Guard

Captain Keith Donohue, commander of Sector Houston-Galveston for the U.S. Coast Guard, presented a comprehensive Coast Guard perspective for attendees at the Feb. 8 Commerce Club. The event was hosted by the Greater Houston Port Bureau at the Houston Marriott South.

Sector Houston-Galveston areas of responsibility extend from Freeport, Texas, to Lake Charles, La., 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 more than 21% of the total U.S. tonnage by ships.

Captain Donohue indicated the Coast Guard was experiencing the “most significant shortage of personnel” in its history and taking “bold steps” to manage workflow until they are at “full strength”. As they adapt and strategically reallocate resources, their priority stays on lifesaving missions, national security, and the protection of the marine transportation system.

To highlight this work locally in Sector Houston-Galveston, Donohue showed a graphic that pinpointed the multitude of vessels offshore and on the waterways that range from Freeport to Port Arthur/Beaumont. Vessel Traffic Service (or VTS) for Houston-Galveston facilitates approximately 44 tanker transits, 17 freighter transits, two cruise ship transits, 379 tow transits, 161 ferry transits, and 69 ships in port every day. This averages one tow every four minutes and one ship every 20 minutes, for 2.5 million communications per year!

Among the numerous topics of industry interest that Donohue discussed, he included the expected increase in vessel traffic from energy expansion projects in Lake Charles and Port Arthur. In Lake Charles, there are seven major LNG projects, representing $45 billion in investments and expected to bring an additional 2,250 vessels annually. In Port Arthur, three new or expanded LNG projects and four LPG/LHG expansion projects are forecasted to bring an additional 1,660 ships a year by 2027. Long term, two proposed Deepwater projects could bring another 815 ships per year, pending developments.

Donohue particularly commended the collaboration and partnerships for safety and security in the port region, especially mentioning the Lone Star Harbor Safety Committee and the Houston Ship Channel Security District, saying “I can honestly say I’ve been around the world to different groups – been around in the United States, and there is no one like our Lone Star Harbor Safety Committee! … It’s amazing what gets done here! And, the Security District – that’s also something you don’t see – it’s unlike anywhere else.”