The Southeast Texas Waterway Advisory Council (SETWAC) has been recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard as the Harbor Safety Committee of the Year for the period of 2020 through 2022. During this period, the SETWAC cultivated a culture of excellence, promoting maritime safety through fostering active partnerships between maritime and government stakeholders, and implementing innovative solutions to address critical safety and security issues impacting the Sabine-Neches Waterway.
The SETWAC’s Port Coordination Team (PCT) and the USCG worked in unison with waterway stakeholders to conduct pre-storm preparations during significant weather events, including hurricanes. After the passing of each storm, the PCT and USCG worked with stakeholders to effect port-storm restoration. These efforts minimized disruptions to the flow of commerce and restored the transportation and distribution of bulk liquid and military cargoes.
- When Hurricane Delta destroyed Sabine Pass Rear Range “A” (RRA), a critical navigational aid marking the entrance of the ship channel, the SETWAC independently secured $500,000 in funding to replace the range, three years ahead of schedule, preventing groundings and supply chain disruptions.
- In response to an increase in near miss collisions between deep-draft ships and commercial fishing vessels in the ship channel, the SETWAC developed safety recommendations to reduce the risk of collision, including distribution of mayday cards in English, Vietnamese, and Spanish to fishing vessels. Subsequently, the number of reported near misses decreased by 16%.
- Over the last two years, the SETWAC commercial fishing vessel representative engaged waterway partners to sponsor fishing vessel safety and survival training. As of June 2022, 178 fishermen have been trained in CPR, man-overboard, firefighting, life rafts, and cold-water survival skills and 44 man-overboard recovery slings have been distributed.
- To raise awareness of career opportunities in the maritime industry, the SETWAC coordinated with local educational institutions and workforce groups to develop and recruit local talent. These collaborative efforts resulted in the development of a high school Maritime Program for junior/senior students; establishment of “Sea Scout Ship 1916”; development of a maritime workshop series by Lamar University’s Center for Port Management; development of maritime educational resources for every level of education; creation of Southeast Texas Transportation Week; and the addition of 53-5011.00- Sailors/Marine Oilers & 53-7062.00-Laborers/Freight, Stock and Material Movers to Southeast Texas Workforce Solutions’ Target Occupation List.
The Beaumont-Port Arthur Metropolitan Statistical Area has more than $65 billion in announced industrial projects, many of which are locating or will rely on the waterway. This highlights the importance of the SETWAC and the role the Council plays in implementing innovative solutions to address critical safety and security issues impacting the Sabine-Neches Waterway.
The Southeast Texas Waterway Advisory Council is a public forum to facilitate discussion and exchange of ideas, thoughts, and advice among all stakeholders on a wide range of issues relevant to the Sabine and Neches rivers, serving the ports of Port Arthur, Beaumont and Orange, in the southeast corner of Texas. The council may advise regulatory bodies and seek actions of non-regulatory entities to achieve the resolution of concerns and enhance safety. Issues include but are not limited to: communications, traffic management, anchorages, and other topics dealing with safety, efficiency, preservation and improvement of the transit and usage of the Sabine-Neches Waterway System.
SETWAC members include the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Army 842nd Transportation Battalion, local port authorities, barge operating companies, chemical / oil refining docks, Sabine Pilots, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, ship operating companies, harbor tug companies, shipping agenda, shipyards and vessel repair facilities, law enforcement, local chambers of commerce, marine terminals, organized labor, and Lamar University Center for Advances in Port Management.