The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:
(NEW ORLEANS) — A full scale exercise will be conducted on the Mississippi River near Algiers Point to test area commercial vessels’ shipboard safety management and contingency plan with oversight from the Coast Guard Wednesday at 9 a.m.
The New Orleans Steamboat Company, New Orleans Paddlewheels, Inc., and the Crescent City Connection Ferry Division will test the vessels’ and crew’s capabilities and to clarify roles and responsibilities of other local, state, and federal first responders should a maritime incident occur in the Port of New Orleans.
The Crescent City Connection ferries, the paddle-wheeler Creole Queen, and the Steamboat Natchez use a combined and collaborative SSMCP to respond and assist each other during emergencies like fires, groundings, collisions, criminal or terrorist acts. The SSMCP is tested annually with Coast Guard oversight. A full scale exercise occurs once every five years.
According to the Code of Federal Regulations and Coast Guard Navigation and Inspection Circular 01-03, passenger vessels meeting certain stringent requirements may operate with an alternative to the prescriptive survival craft requirements. As per the CFRs, when the owner/operator can prove to the Coast Guard their SSMCP offers the same level or greater safety for their passengers the proposed alternative may be used.
The approval process takes into account many factors including the restricted operating area of these vessels on the Lower Mississippi River. This consortium of vessels and other local vessels identified in their SSMCP have agreed to assist each other in the event of an emergency.
For more information on the requirements or the exercise, please contact Lt. Cmdr. Warren at 504-365-2247.