PORT WELCOMES COAST GUARD MERCHANT MARINE INDUSTRY TRAINEE

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Earlier this year, Lieutenant Brett Belanger with the U.S. Coast Guard contacted Port Houston about becoming a host for the Merchant Marine Industry Training Program. With the port’s strong relationship with the organization, the Port Commission approved the request.

Brett Belanger, in the Coast Guard’s prevention track, was selected and assigned to Sector Houston-Galveston. Having previously served for the Coast Guard in Wisconsin, he started his experience at the port June 19. The 2008 Massachusetts Maritime Academy graduate studied industrial administration and has worked for the Coast Guard for nine years.

The program requires the participant to shadow maritime professionals and organizations in the region for a full year without a uniform, so the officer can learn about the dynamic of that particular port.

After the year of training, the trainee serves three or four years of active Coast Guard duty at the assigned port sector. Houston was one of the few ports selected to sponsor a participant.

Port Houston hosted and sponsored Belanger for six weeks, while he will also continue to work with other local private industry partners along the Houston Ship Channel including; Shell, Kirby Inland Marine, Odfjell Terminals and American Eagle Tankers.

“This program is similar to a fast-track internship or apprenticeship. It provides an overview of the port and the big picture of how our industry operates,” said Marcus Woodring, Chief HSSE Officer for Port Houston. “It’s a great opportunity – and Brett will be prepared for a successful duration in Houston with his assignment.”

The Coast Guard’s specialized programs for the training program includes marine inspections, investigations, port safety and security, waterways management and marine environmental protection.

The prevention duty assignment track that Belanger chose is designed for qualified and experienced inspection officers and its goal is to broaden the officer’s professional experience and knowledge by providing opportunities to gain extensive insight and exposure of inspection services as well as merchant vessel and marine operations.

The purpose of the training is to develop within the participant — and the Coast Guard as a whole — a better understanding of the ever-changing technical, regulatory and business environment in which their organization operates.

Participants in the program submit a monthly and final report back to the Coast Guard, describing their activities and passing on their experience to the rest of the Coast Guard organization.

“My time here has been eye opening. I think it is great to see how the Port of Houston is planning ahead for the next 10 to 20 years with its infrastructure, vessels and assets,” said Belanger.

The inspection specialist hopes to be a Captain of the Port someday.

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