Go, Coast Guard, Go!
If a maritime disaster such as terrorism on the high seas, a hurricane, fire, grounding, or sinking occurs, it’s comforting to know that the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) will respond 24/7.
As the principal federal agency responsible for maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship in U.S. ports and waterways, the USCG protects and defends more than 100,000 miles of coastline and inland waterways. One of the five armed services, the USCG is the only military branch within the Department of Homeland Security (except that it may operate as part of the U.S. Navy under special circumstances). It is a member of the intelligence community, part of law enforcement, and a regulatory agency with broad authority over marine transportation, hazardous materials shipping, bridge administration, oil spill response, pilotage, and vessel construction and operation. The USCG searches every container ship coming into New York Harbor, one of the busiest in the nation, while also acting as a first responder and a humanitarian service that will aid people impacted by disasters at sea and ashore.
On an average day, the USCG conducts 45 search and rescue cases, rescues 10 persons from life-threatening situations, protects over $1.2 million in property, seizes 874 pounds of cocaine and 214 pounds of marijuana, conducts 57 waterborne patrols of critical maritime infrastructure, escorts five high-capacity passenger ships, conducts 24 security boardings in and around U.S. ports, screens 360 merchant vessels for potential security threats prior to arrival in U.S. ports, conducts 14 conservation boardings, services 82 buoys and fixed aids to navigation, investigates 35 pollution incidents, completes 26 safety examinations on foreign vessels, conducts 105 marine inspections, investigates 14 marine casualties involving commercial vessels, and facilitates $8.7 billion worth of goods and commodities through the nation’s maritime transportation system.
Whew — that’s a heck of an undertaking! With men and women on active duty, as well as civilian personnel, reservists, and Auxiliarists, the USCG operates a multi-mission, interoperable fleet of cutters (some the size of a Navy destroyer escort), buoy tenders, icebreakers, patrol boats, and aircraft. Tens of thousands of members of the volunteer Auxiliary support the USCG with privately owned aircraft and boats.
No wonder the USCG’s motto is Semper Paratus — Always Ready!
The author is the Division 5 – Staff Officer Public Affairs, First District Southern Region, for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the all-volunteer, non-military arm of the Coast Guard, teaching boating safety education and conducting search and rescue operations. Visit http://cgaux.org/ to join the Auxiliary or for class information.
By William C. Winslow
Video and 10 things to know about the U.S. Coast Guard