Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.
Issue link: http://uscgproceedings.epubxp.com/i/707823
36 Proceedings Summer 2016 www.uscg.mil/proceedings In addition to the required paperwork, every foreign- flagged vessel calling on a U.S. port must undergo annual inspections conducted by the Coast Guard's port state con- trol inspectors to verify that the vessel's condition complies with certain domestic and international regulations govern- ing its seaworthiness, safety, and security. Once a vessel's documentation is in order and the Coast Guard clears it, the port agent coordinates with local service providers for the vessel's transit into Houston. Coordinating the Transit to Berth These service providers include pilots who provide the ves- sel's master with expert advice while navigating the Hous- ton Ship Channel. As the local experts, such pilots are in the best position to determine what actions should or should not be taken at any given moment, and their on-scene discretion is an important factor in ensuring safe transits. Adding to the routine exertion required to bring a vessel into berth, the Port of Houston is a landlocked port with a ship channel that is only 530 feet wide and 45 feet deep, at best — and the width can thin to as little as 250 feet near the city docks. Therefore, these pilots work closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, terminal operators, and the Coast Guard to implement guidelines governing which vessels are allowed to make routine movements at various points in the channel. At Houston Fuel Oil Terminal Company, for example, docks 2 and 3 are situated close enough together that, even when dredged to project depth and width, vessels situated at or moving to and from these docks must have a combined beam of less than 290 feet to make sure there's enough space for both vessels to maneuver. During the transit to berth, vessel personnel also check in regularly with the Coast Guard's vessel traffic service, wh ic h coordi nates issues such as channel closures and notifies ships of potential passing situations. As a ship approaches its assigned berth, tugs maneuver the vessel into the dock. Finally, as the tugs push each ship into position, professional line handlers dart in and around the vessel, mooring it in place and ensuring that it stands fast. At the Dock Once the vessel is at its berth, agents meet it to address arrival formalities. For vessels arriving from foreign ports, some of the largest refinery complexes in the world. The more than 200 million tons of cargo that move annually through the Port of Houston include nearly every type of commodity or product made or consumed in the United States. 4 The Agencies Along the Houston Ship Channel, more than three dozen vessel agencies compete to handle a ship's affairs. These agencies provide local expertise, so they must be fully pre- pared to work with each service entity and stakeholder. In addition, the agent is often the single point of contact for the vessel's crew with regard to the services they may need after a long voyage at sea. Even in the age of instant communication, the agencies' specialized skills remain in high demand. An agent typi- cally works with the owners and master before arriving at the channel, while the ship is still at sea, to ensure that the proper pre-arrival paperwork is completed before the ship enters U.S. waters. For example, the U.S. Coast Guard elec- tronic notice of arrival must be submitted at least 96 hours prior to arrival. Other necessary documentation for a ves- sel's transit may include U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)'s automated manifest, the National Ballast Informa- tion Clearinghouse's ballast water report, or documentation that tank vessels have response plans in place to cover a potential spill or discharge. Port Of Houston National Rankings ■ #1 U.S. port by foreign waterborne tonnage ■ #1 U.S. port in petroleum, steel, and project cargo continued on page 38 Texas Ports Help Drive Our Nation's Economy The ports of Texas represent 21.8 percent of our nation's maritime tonnage, making Texas the nation's largest exporter, ahead of California and significantly ahead of New York, Washington, Illinois, and Louisiana. Among U.S. seaports, the Port of Houston has ranked first in foreign tonnage for 19 consecutive years as of 2014, and second in total tonnage for 23 consecutive years as of 2014. Bibliography: Port of Houston Authority, www.portofhouston.com.