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Galveston-Texas City and Houston Ship Pilots Honored by U.S. Coast Guard for Hurricane Harvey Response
News Release
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

GALVESTON – The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) commended the Greater Houston-Galveston Port Coordination Team (PCT), including the Houston and Galveston-Texas City Ship Pilots, for their outstanding efforts before, during and after Hurricane Harvey. 

U.S. Coast Guard District Eight Commander, Rear Admiral Paul Thomas presented Captain Christos Sotirelis of Galveston-Texas City and Captain Robert Shearon of the Houston Pilots with the Coast Guard Public Service Commendation Feb. 2 at Coast Guard Sector Houston/Galveston.

“In a port of national economic significance, the resiliency and ability to restore commerce is essential,” said Steve Nerheim, director of Vessel Traffic Service Coast Guard Sector Houston/Galveston. “For this reason, the Port Coordination Team is essential to the Greater Galveston Bay Port Complex.”

The PCT was established by the Houston/Galveston Navigation Safety Advisory Committee in the early 2000s to manage fog-related port disruptions. It was the first of its kind, creating a model in which industry, vessel traffic service, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, state pilots, and other waterways stakeholders could efficiently manage events that affect port movements of ships. It has since evolved and is employed in response to all manner of vessel traffic disruptions, such as oil spills, waterway hazards or emergencies, heavy weather and hurricane conditions.

“Through individual contributions such as yours, the Greater Houston-Galveston Port Coordination team has achieved a long-standing national reputation for cooperation, effectiveness, and efficiency built upon mutual trust and confidence and habitual working relationships. Hurricane Harvey put that reputation to the test,” the commendation reads. “Your team exceeded every expectation in safely, expeditiously, and efficiently restoring maritime commerce on one of our Nation’s most economically vital waterways. It is your Texas spirit of collaboration and cooperation that enables us to maintain the safe, secure, and efficient maritime domain that is so vital to our Nation’s economy.”

Hurricane Harvey carried a storm surge of six feet, 100-mph winds and an historic 52 inches of rainfall on one of the nation’s busiest ports and its largest petrochemical complex.

Texas ports facilitate hundreds of billions in trade annually, and support -- directly and indirectly -- more than half a million jobs. A lengthy closure due to a storm, an accident or other incident would have a major negative impact upon the local, state and national economies. 

“Being recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard is a tremendous honor. I’m proud of the vital role Galveston-Texas City Pilots play in protecting the safety of vessels and passengers, and the viability of our ports and the economy,” said Captain Christos Sotirelis, Presiding Officer of Galveston-Texas City Pilots. “Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on communities up and down the entire Gulf Coast. Our ability to pre-plan and coordinate with team members enabled us to adequately prepare for this storm and swiftly restore maritime commerce in its aftermath.” 

“The PCT process is just another example of how the maritime community comes together in an honest and transparent way for the greater good of the Port. It’s certainly an honor to be recognized by the Coast Guard and an honor to serve on the PCT,” said Captain Robert Shearon, Presiding Officer of Houston Pilots. 

Since 1845, the Galveston-Texas City Pilots have guided vessels safely to port or out to sea with a mission to protect lives, the environment, property, and the economic strength of the Ports of Galveston County. The Branch Pilots of Galveston County are all master mariners with decades of experience and specialized local knowledge, charged by the Governor with ensuring the safety of Texas’ ports and waterways.

Houston Pilots is a voluntary association of 97 ship pilots providing pilotage services to vessels navigating the Houston Ship Channel. A leader in navigation safety and innovation since 1919, the Association’s goal is to safeguard the interests of the citizens of Harris County by ensuring the safe navigation of deep draft vessels transiting to the over 160 public and private docks along the 52-mile Houston Ship Channel. As exclusive agents commissioned by the Governor of the state of Texas, Houston Pilots oversaw over 18,000 safe vessel transits last year, moving more than 147 million metric tons of cargo and stimulating $178 billion in economic activity.


Attached photo caption: U.S. Coast Guard District Eight Commander, Rear Admiral Paul Thomas presents the Houston-Galveston Port Coordination Team with the Coast Guard Public Service Commendation.

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