Last week, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Baltimore held its annual Port-wide Industry Day. It is an attempt by the Coast Guard to reach out to the port community and keep everyone up to date on what’s happening. This year, the program started with a discussion of a large maritime festival that will be taking place in Baltimore Harbor this summer in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the national anthem, which was penned by Francis Scott Key aboard a ship in the harbor. There will be a weekend of tall ships, Naval vessels, an air show and more, right in the middle of a very busy commercial port.
The Coast Guard is working with industry to minimize the impact on shipping and keep commerce flowing. Sector Baltimore is very aware of the balancing act it must play everyday. Its mission is port security and vessel and terminal safety — along with search and rescue, ice breaking and a bunch of other things. But, as Coast Guard officials say, they “punch above their weight.”
The Coast Guard is tasked with keeping the ships moving, the cruise passengers happy and the port functioning. Luckily, they are a very responsive group, says Dave Espie, the Maryland Port Administration’s director of security. He says Sector Baltimore “goes out of their way to educate and keep industry abreast of regs and issues that might impact commerce.”
At Industry Day, there were breakout sessions about terminal and vessel security and a scary keynote about cybersecurity. Federal agencies including the FBI, EPA, FDA and USDA set up a sort of trade show handing out alerts about the latest invasive pests infiltrating cargo or the latest emissions regulations for vehicles and vessels. The coolest table was Fish and Wildlife’s display of confiscated exotic animal and plant items, including snake wine.
Everyone was giving out business cards. McAllister Towing Capt. John Shellenberger was glad to have the opportunity to put a face to the name of some of the Coast Guard officials. “It’s really good to get to know what is going on around the harbor ahead of time, like with this Star-Spangled Banner event,” he said.