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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Houston - U.S. Coast Guard Commandant: New Threats, New Challenges, New Strategy

The U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, the Managing Director of the Port of Houston Authority, Panama’s Ambassador to the IMO and the Administrator of the Panama Canal, were the keynote speakers as the INTERTANKO Tanker Event opened in Houston this week.


A refreshingly outspoken Admiral Thad. W. Allen shared his views about his priorities during his watch as Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard is the principal U.S. federal agency charged with maritime safety, security and stewardship. As such, the Coast Guard protects the vital interests of the United States – the personal safety and security of its population, its natural and economic resources, and the territorial integrity of its maritime borders – from internal and external threats, natural and man made. The Coast Guard protects these interests in U.S. ports and inland waterways. Adm. Allen underlined the lessons learnt from both the 11 September 2001 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, after which the Coast Guard had presented a new strategy for Maritime Safety, Security, and Stewardship. This consists of a six-point plan to improve U.S. national preparedness and resilience, namely:

  1. Strengthen regimes for the U.S. maritime domain
  2. Achieve awareness in the maritime domain
  3. Enhance unity of effort in maritime planning and operations
  4. Integrate Coast Guard capabilities for national defence
  5. Develop a national capacity for marine transport system recovery
  6. Focus on international engagement to improve maritime governance

Wade M. Battles, Managing Director, Port of Houston Authority, welcomed INTERTANKO’s members and guests to Houston and the State of Texas, which he described as an area that leads the U.S. in oil and chemical refining as well as in energy consumption. Houston is the U.S. energy headquarters and a world centre for virtually every segment of the petroleum industry. The Port of Houston is the second largest petrochemical complex in the world, behind Rotterdam, with about 2,350 oil and chemical tankers calling at the port in 2006. The port saw a 17.4% growth in the number of tankers calling Houston from 2004 to 2006, helped by the successful deepening and widening of the Houston Ship Channel. With a population base of over 4 million people, the home of dozens of refineries and an extensive transport system infrastructure, Houston quite naturally has had to enhance its security programme and has spent millions of dollars on infrastructure improvements in such areas as CCTV cameras, access controls, perimeter fencing, additional security officers and a Mobile Command Centre that has the latest in communication and operations technology.


Panama’s ambassador to the United Kingdom and permanent representative to the IMO, H.E. Liliana Fernandez Puentes, gave an update on the changes and projects in the Panamanian Administration. This included new procedures for the evaluation of tankers for the Panamanian register (the world’s largest) and registration requirements. The Register has recently created some new departments, including a casualty section i.a. to comply with IMO requirements on investigation and reporting, a compliance department to ensure the correct enforcement of international and national regulations, a Port State Control section now separated from flag state control. Furthermore, new technical and administrative staff have been hired to improve services and greater emphasis has been placed on the training of PSC inspectors. Panama recently submitted a request for an IMO Member State audit, which they estimate will cost some USD 2.3 million for the preparation and the audit itself.


The Administrator of the Panama Canal Authority, Alberto Aleman Zubieta, gave an overview of the Panama Canal’s expansion plans and also explained the different operations and objectives of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP)and the U.S.-run Panama Canal Commission (PCC). Whereas the U.S.-run operation could be described as break-even, the post-2000 Panama Canal Authority has to work for profit and efficient operation.


There has been a substantial growth in the number of transits over the years, and a national referendum in October 2006 decided that the size of the Canal should be substantially increased. Aleman explained how this would take place. He also defended the decision to increase the transit tolls in order to help finance not only the considerable investments the Canal authority ready has already undertaken, and also those it will undertake in the future.


Copies of the presentations will be made available shortly on the INTERTANKO web site under Intertanko Presentations.


Contact: Kristian R. Fuglesang