Chicago maritime community convenes Harbor Safety Committee in response to increased use, activity on Chicago River

Post written by: Cmdr. Jason Neubauer and Auxiliarist Jonathan Roth

With a metropolitan area of more than 9.4 million people, Chicago is our nation’s third largest city and boasts the largest municipal harbor system in the United States, according to the Chicago Park District. Ten Chicago harbors on Lake Michigan and many miles of the Chicago River are used for recreational and commercial boat traffic throughout the year.

Cmdr. Jason Neubauer, commanding officer of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Chicago, addresses attendees of the inaugural meeting of the Chicago Harbor Safety Committee at Navy Pier in Chicago, July 15, 2013. The CHSC elected an interim board of directors from a variety of organizations and waterway users who have mutual interests in the safe use of the Chicago River and areas of Lake Michigan near Chicago. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Jonathan Roth.

Cmdr. Jason Neubauer, commanding officer of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Chicago, addresses attendees of the inaugural meeting of the Chicago Harbor Safety Committee at Navy Pier in Chicago, July 15, 2013. The CHSC elected an interim board of directors from a variety of organizations and waterway users who have mutual interests in the safe use of the Chicago River and areas of Lake Michigan near Chicago. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Jonathan Roth.

Due to increased usage of these waterways in recent years, a Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment was conducted in Chicago to identify major waterway safety hazards, estimate risk levels, and set the stage for implementation of selected measures to further reduce risks in the Port of Chicago. Based on feedback obtained during waterway stakeholder meetings held in March 2012, the Coast Guard Marine Transportation Systems Directorate issued a PAWSA report for the Port of Chicago, which stressed the need to establish a Chicago Harbor Safety Committee.

 The CHSC is comprised of organizations, agencies, and waterway users within the Chicago marine community that will serve as a link between marine stakeholders who have mutual interests in the use of navigable waterways, including the Chicago River and the portion of Lake Michigan that includes Chicago’s commercial and recreational harbors.

During their inaugural meeting on July 15, 2013, at Chicago’s Navy Pier, the Coast Guard hosted and facilitated an election of interim board members. The initial meeting helped to open communication lines between commercial vessel operators, merchant mariners, recreational boaters, waterfront facility operators, civic and environmental advocates, government agencies, and human-powered craft organization members.

Wendella Sightseeing President Michael Borgstrom (left) and Wendella’s chief of operations Mike McElroy (right) talk with Capt. Richard Casier of Mercury Skyline Yacht Charters at the inaugural meeting of the Chicago Harbor Safety Committee at Navy Pier in Chicago, July 15, 2013. The CHSC is comprised of marine stakeholders who have mutual interests in the safe use of the Chicago River and areas of Lake Michigan near Chicago. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Jonathan Roth.

Wendella Sightseeing President Michael Borgstrom (left) and Wendella’s chief of operations Mike McElroy (right) talk with Capt. Richard Casier of Mercury Skyline Yacht Charters at the inaugural meeting of the Chicago Harbor Safety Committee at Navy Pier in Chicago, July 15, 2013. The CHSC is comprised of marine stakeholders who have mutual interests in the safe use of the Chicago River and areas of Lake Michigan near Chicago. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Jonathan Roth.

Kayaks, canoes, and other paddle craft have become increasingly popular after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel allocated nearly $1 million in grants to increase recreation and economic activity on the city’s waterways. 

Coast Guard personnel facilitated the meeting included Capt. Matthew Sibley, commander of Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan and Captain of the Port; Cmdr. Jason Neubauer, commanding officer of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Chicago; and Marine Safety specialists from Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Chicago. 

“The turnout for the kick-off meeting was impressive and it was heartening to see such a diverse group of maritime interests working side-by-side,” said Cmdr. Neubauer.  “We now need to capitalize on our momentum and make sure the CHSC becomes an active and integral entity for the Port of Chicago.”

The new team brings a wealth of maritime knowledge and experience to the CHSC that will provide an invaluable resource to the Port of Chicago.  Overall, the CHSC will be dedicated to ensuring that all users can enjoy the Chicago’s waterways in a safe and efficient manner.

The Chicago Ports and Waterways Assessment Report is available on the Coast Guard Navigation Center’s website.

Chief Warrant Officer Jack Hambidge, a representative of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Chicago, talks to Capt. Mark Stevenson, member of the International Shipmasters’ Association, at the inaugural meeting of the Chicago Harbor Safety Committee at Navy Pier in Chicago, July 15, 2013. The CHSC is comprised of marine stakeholders who have mutual interests in the safe use of the Chicago River and areas of Lake Michigan near Chicago. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Jonathan Roth.

Chief Warrant Officer Jack Hambidge, a representative of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Chicago, talks to Capt. Mark Stevenson, member of the International Shipmasters’ Association, at the inaugural meeting of the Chicago Harbor Safety Committee at Navy Pier in Chicago, July 15, 2013. The CHSC is comprised of marine stakeholders who have mutual interests in the safe use of the Chicago River and areas of Lake Michigan near Chicago. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Jonathan Roth.

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