Tuesday, March 27, 2012

USCG 13th District Promotes Safety and Stewardship

By Rear Admiral Keith Taylor

It’s been six months since I left the “other Washington” and it is great to be here as the new Thirteenth District Commander – it has been exceptionally challenging, rewarding and a real honor to be part of the tremendous maritime community here in the great Pacific Northwest. After getting to meet many in the industry over the last six months and engaging in all parts of our operations, I can report back that your Coast Guard is on watch and ready 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Together we are ensuring the safety, security and environmental stewardship of our waters and the incredible economic force they represent to all
of us.

The Pacific Northwest is not only a beautiful place to work, it is also essential to our nation’s economy. It hosts the country’s largest ferry system, the third biggest container port complex, and is a major gateway for grain exports. It serves as a strategic port for the US Navy, caters to a busy cruise ship season, and is home to one of the nation’s largest commercial fishing fleets. The Northwest presents unique maritime challenges and perils not commonly found elsewhere in our nation. Commercial mariners and our Coast Guard men and women face hazardous river bar conditions, rugged coastline, year-round cold water, severe weather, and dangerous operations in their daily work.

Safety cannot be taken for granted. As the senior commander for more than 5,500 Coast Guard personnel, I am constantly stressing the importance of proficiency; doing the best we can each and every day, and not just meeting minimum standards – no one goes home to his family and brags about accomplishing the bare minimum. I firmly believe that everyone in the maritime industry must focus on these same values and instill them in all employees. As maritime professionals, being proficient, being safe and protecting our waters are not only the “right” things to do, they are essential to the bottom line. A strong safety and environmental culture will reduce workplace injuries, lower insurance costs, cut down on the need to manage “bad” things, and improve employee morale and productivity.

The Coast Guard plays very important roles as the federal lead for safety, security and stewardship on our nation’s waterways: we work hard to prevent bad things from happening; and, when bad things do occur we respond decisively. To achieve these outcomes we must work exceptionally close with many of you in the maritime industry. As a regulator, the Coast Guard helps build effective regulatory regimes and ensures compliance with all applicable federal laws. As a partner, the Coast Guard collaborates with the marine industry, elected officials, other agencies, and the public to identify, assess and mitigate risk. We also work very closely with the tribal nations and our Canadian partners on a host of issues. Using both informal and formal processes, we routinely seek the advice and support of stakeholders to ensure a full understanding of all issues, bolster relationships and trust, and to develop industry standards of care that advance safety, security and stewardship.

A good example showcasing the Coast Guard’s role as both regulator and partner is the current Towing Vessel Bridging Program. In the interest of promoting safety, we have been working closely with industry and stakeholders for many years to fully implement the provisions of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2004, and, as many of you may be aware, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was issued on August 11, 2011. I encourage all of you with an interest in the very important change to provide comments as part of this rulemaking effort. The bridging program was designed to help ease the towing vessel industry’s transition from an uninspected to an inspected regime, as outlined in the NPRM. As part of this program we are working hard to acclimate all involved with existing and, as implementation draws closer, new Subchapter M regulations. To further these ends, during this period of transition the Coast Guard is conducting extensive industry outreach, training our inspectors by having them spend time onboard towing vessels to learn from industry experts, and examining every uninspected towing vessel that will be subject to the new rule. In all encounters with industry, our approach will be measured, professional, and, to the greatest degree possible, in the spirit of cooperation, while ultimately ensuring compliance with applicable safety, security, and environmental protection regulations.

Strong relationships, collaboration on the toughest of issues and honest dialogue have long been the trademark here in the Pacific Northwest, and are essential to the continued safety and environmental protection on our oceans and waterways. I promise I will do my part each and every day. Thanks again for the hearty “Welcome Aboard” my family and I have received – we are excited to be here and love being part of this great community. I look forward to working with all of you to tackle the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Be proficient, be safe, and never forget we are a maritime nation!

Rear Admiral Keith A. Taylor, Commander of the Thirteenth Coast Guard District headquartered in Seattle, Washington, is responsible for US Coast Guard operations covering 4 states, more than 4,400 miles of coastline, 600 miles of inland waterways, and a 125-mile international border with Canada. Rear Admiral Taylor holds a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the US Coast Guard Academy, a Master of Science in Industrial Administration degree from the Krannert School at Purdue University and a Master of Business Administration degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.