Thursday, October 15, 2009

Major Marine Events—planning, coordination, and execution

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine. By LCDR Jesse Stevenson, LT Kurt Van Hauter, MST3 Haven Miller, and LT Heather Hanning, U.S. Coast Guard.

What are marine events, and why is the Coast Guard involved with them?

The Code of Federal Regulations defines a marine event as an organized water event that is conducted according to a pre-arranged schedule. The regulations further state that if a marine event is going to introduce extra or unusual hazards to the navigable waters of the United States, the organizer must notify the Coast Guard.

Typical marine events on the Western Rivers include festivals, fishing tournaments, speedboat races, and rowing, canoeing, kayak, and swimming events. Fireworks events (often a sub-event within a marine event) create additional risks. Unlike those on open bodies of water, fireworks displays on the rivers require that the barges containing the fireworks be placed so that shell fallout does not land on the shore crowds or boaters watching from the river.

The key to a successful event is involving the local Coast Guard office in the planning process from the beginning. This allows the Coast Guard and other planners to identify and solve problematic issues before an event.

Tall Stacks: Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati is a city steeped in rich river history. The Tall Stacks Music, Arts, and Heritage Festival celebrates that history, featuring an average of 18 Coast Guard-certified stern-wheel vessels. This impressive multi-day extravaganza, scheduled on a three-year cycle, is one of Cincinnati’s largest marine events.

During the 2006 event, the collocation of the Tall Stacks control center and Coast Guard patrol commander (responsible for the positioning of all law enforcement agency vessels) created a coordinated effort of river traffic control. At nearby locks, commercial vessel traffic was given informational flyers detailing the requirements for transiting through the area as well as radio channels designated for communication to the Tall Stacks control center and Coast Guard patrol commander.

The Coast Guard forces, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, Hamilton County Sheriff, and several other local governmental agencies also oversaw numerous evolutions, including sternwheeler boat races, boat parades, five large fireworks displays, and hundreds of individual cruises.

Fair St. Louis
Imagine open-air concerts; hundreds of street vendors and entertainers; a bridge turned into an open-air marketplace, packed with dining areas; and a 20-minute fireworks display each night. This is what hundreds of thousands of spectators experience during the annual Fair St. Louis 4th of July celebration.

Attended annually by an estimated 500,000 people, spectators witness the sights and sounds of the city, local performers, and St. Louis Cardinals baseball games.

Planning starts as soon as the current year’s event is finished. Working with multiple agencies, Sector Upper Mississippi River’s marine event coordinator starts identifying any risks that might be associated with the activities planned for the following year using a risk-based decision making tool to mitigate those risks and ensure a safe, fun-filled event.

Thunder Over Louisville
This event is one of the largest fireworks events in the country. It is held two weeks before the Kentucky Derby to mark the official beginning of the Kentucky Derby festival. Although the fireworks show is the major attraction for Thunder, it is an all-day event that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators along the Kentucky and Indiana banks of the Ohio River.

Of course, no show of this size can be put on without a tremendous amount of planning and organization. Thunder planning for the next year begins almost before the echoes of the show have faded on event night. Meetings are held almost year-round to help garner sponsors, partners, and participants. The Coast Guard is involved in many of these meetings, especially with law enforcement, rescue agencies, and event organizers, to help delineate each agency’s responsibility on event day.

Since Thunder Over Louisville happens in late April, the river is often higher than normal, and swift currents, debris, and drift are common. As a result, the week leading up to Thunder is used by the Coast Guard to emphasize safe boating awareness.

About the authors:
LCDR Stevenson enlisted in the Coast Guard, achieving the rank of MKC before receiving his officer’s commission in 1995. He has a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology and a master’s in quality systems management.

MST3 Haven Miller has served at Sector Upper Mississippi River; Station Ocean City, Md.; and Marine Safety Office St. Louis.

LT Kurt Van Hauter served as the supervisor of Coast Guard Sector Ohio Valley’s boat facility and at Marine Safety Office/Group Portland. Prior to OCS, LT Van Hauter served as a marine science technician at Marine Safety Office/Group Philadelphia; at Air Station Kodiak; at naval technical training unit, Keesler Air Force base; and as a boatswain’s mate third class at Station Stillpond.

LT Heather Hanning served as the supervisor of Marine Safety Detachment Cincinnati. Her previous assignments include Sector Mobile, Coast Guard headquarters marine safety systems development, and prior to attending Officer Candidate School, the USCGC Gentian, serving as boatswain’s mate third class.

For more information:
Full article and “U.S. Coast Guard Western Rivers Sectors” edition of USCG Proceedings is available at Click on “archives” and then “2007-08 Vol. 64, Number 4” (Winter 2007-08).

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