Port of Houston welcomes first of three new fireboats

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The following is the text of a news release from the Port of Houston Authority: 

(HOUSTON) — Amid a colorful spray of water jets over vessels in the Houston Ship Channel Wednesday, the Port of Houston Authority formally welcomed the first of a new fleet of high-performance emergency response vessels.

The powerful state-of-the-art vessels will be used to help protect facilities along the Houston Ship Channel, a waterway critically important to the state and nation for international commerce and because it is home to the largest petrochemical complex in the United States. The fireboats will enhance firefighters' ability to save lives and property along the 25-mile-long Port of Houston.

The significance of the upgrade in firefighting equipment was noted by Port Commission Chairman Janiece Longoria during the special commissioning ceremony at the Turning Basin Terminal's Sam Houston Pavilion, and was reiterated by and U.S. Congressman Gene Green and U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Longoria lauded the lawmakers.

"We would not be here today to celebrate the christening of the first of these three new emergency response vessels without the support of our members of Congress," Longoria said. "It is through a strong local and federal partnership that the Port of Houston can build the most sophisticated emergency response fleet in the world. Congressional members Gene Green and Sheila Jackson Lee have been staunch advocates for the Port of Houston and their support has been unwavering."

PHA Fire Chief William Buck began the formal program, which included a tribute to firefighters who lost their lives in New York City after the terrorist attacks of September 11. Also in attendance of a crowd of about 100, were Port Commissioner Steve Phelps, Executive Director Len Waterworth, and many of the area's first responders, as well as many area governmental representatives.

The new emergency response vessel, a Firestorm 70 model, is a state-of-the-art command center and high-speed response vessel. The vessel was purchased with awards from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency Port Security Grant Program as well as funding from the Port Authority.

The vessel has significant enhancements, including hazmat capabilities and infrared sonar, enabling the crew to see the bottom of the Houston Ship Channel. Built by MetalCraft Marine, the fireboat has powerful quad diesel inboard engines to propel the vessel at a swift 45 knots top speed — three times that of the current fleet vessels.

These new vessels will provide PHA firefighters with nearly three times the pumping power of the old fleet to help protect the nation's No. 1 port for foreign tonnage. Before the formal blessing and christening ceremony, a retirement ceremony was held for the emergency response fireboat Tellepsen, named for Howard Tellepsen, Sr., Port Chairman from 1956 to 1970. The Tellepsen family was present for the ceremony and Longoria presented his son, Tom Tellepsen with the nameboard from the Tellepsen vessel.

About the Port of Houston Authority

For nearly 100 years, the Port of Houston Authority has owned or operated the public cargo-handling facilities of the Port of Houston — the nation's largest port for foreign waterborne tonnage. The port is an economic engine for the Houston region, the state of Texas and the nation. It supports the creation of more than one million statewide jobs and more than 2.1 million nationwide jobs, and the generation of economic activity totaling more than $178.5 billion in Texas and $499 billion across the nation. For more information or to access the 2012 annual report, visit the Port Authority website at: www.portofhouston.com.

By Professional Mariner Staff