Plimsolls awarded to the Nautical Institute and director of Louisiana oil and gas port

The London-based Nautical Institute and Ted Falgout, the long-time director of the leading port for the offshore oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico, have been chosen by the editors of Professional Mariner as the 2010 winners of the Samuel Plimsoll Awards for Outstanding Service.

The Nautical Institute, winner of the award for outstanding service by an organization, was honored for its support of the professional development of mariners and for its promotion of safety in the maritime industry.

Falgout, winner of the award for outstanding service by an individual, retired last year after 31 years as port director of Port Fourchon, La. Under his leadership, the port grew from a tiny fishing center into the primary base for offshore oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Bridget Hogan, director of publishing and marketing for the Nautical Institute, with Capt. George Sandberg, chairman of the U.S. Northeast Coast branch of the institute, accepted the award for outstanding service by an organization. Far right, John Gormley, editor of Professional Mariner. (Brian Gauvin photo)

The awards are named after the British member of Parliament who strove to end the dangerous practice of overloading vessels. His efforts culminated in legislation passed in 1876 requiring load lines, or Plimsoll marks, to be visible on the hulls of seagoing ships. The awards were presented on March 23 at the Connecticut Maritime Association’s Shipping 2010 conference in Stamford, Conn.

Ted Falgout, former port director in Port Fourchon, La., won the individual award. (Brian Gauvin photo)

The Nautical Institute demonstrably embodies the spirit of Plimsoll in its work. Founded by a group of master mariners in 1971, the institute has striven to help mariners improve their performance by raising training standards and disseminating information crucial to greater operational efficiency and safety.

For example, 20 years ago, the institute recognized that no operational standards existed for what was then a new technology: dynamic positioning systems. In response, the institute developed a code of practice and a curriculum for training and certifying DP operators. Today, schools around the world accredited by the Nautical Institute provide the certification training, while the Nautical Institute itself administers the logbook program that verifies the mariner’s progress on the path to DP certification.

One of the organization’s most notable contributions to improved safety is the Mariners’ Alerting and Reporting Scheme, launched in 1992. This program makes it possible for the industry to learn from dangerous incidents and implement changes to avoid accidents in the future. The system encourages mariners to report near misses in which they were involved without having their identities publicly revealed. Those reports are then analyzed by the Nautical Institute and disseminated in its Seaways magazine.

This approach allows mariners to make the reports without fear of recriminations and permits the industry to recognize and correct problems before they culminate in disaster.

Port Fourchon experienced rapid growth during Falgout’s tenure as port director. Today the vessels based at Port Fourchon support 90 percent of all the deepwater oil and gas production and 45 percent of the Gulf’s shelf operations. It also supports the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the only U.S. offshore terminal capable of handling supertankers.

The offshore oil and gas industry has recognized Port Fourchon as the ideal base for its operations, in terms of efficiency and safety. That fact is testimony to the outstanding design of the terminals and channels that have been developed under Falgout.

Despite the need to expand rapidly, Port Fourchon went to great lengths to protect the environment, and even to restore some natural features. Large tracts of wetlands were turned into permanent wildlife refuges. Natural features such as barrier islands and low-lying ridges were restored to recreate some of the natural features that protect the low-lying coastal areas from storms and saltwater incursion.

Over the years, Falgout has earned a reputation as a maritime industry advocate and a defender of the environment. In doing so, he has created a model that shows it is possible to protect a highly sensitive and fragile environment, while building a safe and efficient port.

By Professional Mariner Staff