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Chicago Hosts the 2024 National Harbor Safety Committee Conference

The Chicago Harbor Safety Committee was honored to host the 19th Biennial National Harbor Safety Committee Conference, which was held 20-21 March 2024 at Chicago’s own Navy Pier.

 This event continues to be one of the premier gatherings of waterways stakeholders from the private sector, government agencies, and academia.  A robust conference program was developed in cooperation with harbor safety committee representatives from across the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and included keynote addresses from an unprecedented gathering of high-ranking government officials and a collection of panel sessions thoughtfully designed to highlight cases where HSCs have made a tangible impact within their local waterway to inspire action and share lessons learned.  The conference also provided a vital forum for networking among waterways stakeholders and service providers from across the nation.

The Highlight of the event was the presentation of the Distinguished Harbor safety award by USCG Commandant Admiral Linda Fagan to the Chicago Harbor Safety Committee. The award was received by Captain Mike McElroy, President of the Chicago Harbor safety Committee and Director of Marine Operations of Wendella Sightseeing Boats in Chicago. This is the second time Chicago has been awarded this national honor for its dedication to waterways safety. USCG Commandant Admiral Linda Fagan is the first female Commandant and the first USCG officer to serve on 7 continents and the longest serving marine safety Officer in the USCG. As such she is the only recipient of the golden ancient trident award.

Chicago was awarded the honor for its continual efforts to increase safety and security in the port including Development of novice boater training materials on line, partnerships with local environmental sectors to remove trash from the waterways,  Extended recreational boater public outreach and facilitating multi agency and industry real time emergency planning exercises in the port of Chicago.

Captain McElroy is quoted as saying “ Once again Chicago enjoys this great honor but it is only due to the unique agency, public and industry partnerships we nurture on a continuous basis. Our port is truly a unicorn and one of a kind in its challenges but Chicagoans like challenges and we work together in committee to find solutions. The CHSC is a diverse representation of waterways users who come together to find compromise and a way to share our waterways safely. I am fortunate to have an amazing team and incredible agency partners. This award is shared with them. It was a pleasure to host this event and to showcase our people and our great City to our National partners.”


HSCs are key enablers of the national Marine Transportation System, supporting our domestic and global supply chain and, consequently, America’s economic and national security.  Membership is typically comprised of representatives of government agencies, maritime labor and industry organizations, environmental groups, and other public interest groups, to the extent they are active in a particular port.  Through their ability to convene a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss local issues and recommend mitigating strategies, HSCs provide a tremendous service to the nation – ensuring the safe, efficient, and environmentally sound operation of our ports and waterways.

The event included search and rescue displays by the Chicago Fire department. Chicago police department and the USCG. The distinguished HSC award is granted biannually and was awarded to Chicago last in 2013.

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