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Press Release | May 17, 2024

U.S. Coast Guard convenes Safety Board of Inquiry to assess port infrastructure risks

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Coast Guard convened a Ports and Waterways Safety Board of Inquiry Wednesday, to evaluate the risks to critical port infrastructure posed by larger commercial vessels and increased traffic density.  

The Board, authorized under Title 46 of the U.S. Code and chaired by Rear Adm. Wayne R. Arguin, assistant commandant for prevention policy, is comprised of a team of senior Coast Guard officers and experts who will work closely with federal, state, local agencies and port stakeholders to conduct a comprehensive assessment of critical port infrastructure. Specifically, the Board will examine the implications of larger, more complex vessels and evolving maritime traffic patterns on port infrastructure, including bridges, cargo terminals, pipelines, railways and power plants and recommend risk mitigation strategies and best practices to ensure navigational safety. A review of the historical use and effectiveness of the Coast Guard’s existing waterways risk assessment tools will also be conducted. 

"The safety of our ports and waterways is paramount, and this Board will ensure that we have the necessary measures in place to address the challenges posed by increased maritime traffic and larger vessels," said Arguin. 

The Board is tasked with identifying ten domestic ports or port complexes to examine within 30 days of the convening order and producing a comprehensive final report by May 31, 2025. The Board will work closely with federal, state and local stakeholders, including the U.S. Committee on the Marine Transportation System, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Highway Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop and implement effective risk assessment tools and procedures. 

“Working closely with key government and industry stakeholders is the top priority for this Board and that close coordination will be critical to expeditiously completing this unprecedented assessment of our vital ports,” said Arguin. 

A Ports and Waterways Safety Board of Inquiry is the highest-level assessment conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard to address risks to port and waterway infrastructure following concerns from maritime incidents. This Board is a necessary step to bolster our economic prosperity through safe, secure and efficient flow of commerce on our waterways. 

Additional information can be found at the Ports and Waterways Safety Board of Inquiry website