Shadowing the captain of the port
March 16, 2015 was the first annual Captain of the Port Day, a chance for three Harbor School students to shadow the Captain of the Port of New York, Captain Gordon Loebl, for the day. It was truly a long and vigorous day-- however this is not meant as a sad note. Today was truly extraordinary, as it should be. In the morning, I along with two other Harbor School students met a 4 AM wake up call. This was all in the attempt to make the 6:50 AM ferry heading toward Staten Island. Upon arriving at Staten Island we met a Coast Guard member who drove us to the Coast Guard base. After arriving at the Coast Guard base we met with Kenneth Schnetzler who helped me to organize the event along with Aaron Singh and others in the weeks leading up to this day. We rushed to breakfast and had a swell meal. Meanwhile Mr. Schnetzler ran us through the day’s agenda. Following our breakfast we then had a morning briefing. During this time we were briefed on any events that happened during the weekend as well as having a chance to hear from every officer in the room on what they are tasked with on a day-to-day basis, and to learn how they joined the Coast Guard and the many different routes taken. After this we got the chance to enter the Vessel Trafficking System, known as the VTS, and the Vessel Trafficking Center, or VTC. The main priority of this area is to ensure that vessels that enter New York Harbor are safe to do so; that they meet all security requirements and pose no threat. Along with this they also ensure that all May-day radio calls and calls along those lines are responded to correctly and that traffic in the Harbor moves safely. It’s a high-security area: no phones are allowed beyond the doors. Following this, I along with the other two Harbor School students had some down time with Captain Loebl, which led to us asking questions of him as well as vice versa. After this we were then shown around the Coast Guard Base. We saw their fitness center along with the Coast Guard Exchange, and lastly the newly named dinning hall. Shortly after this we had the chance to be part of Capt. Loebl’s meeting with the New Jersey Senator Corey Booker’s representative, Steven Fernandez. Here we discussed what the Coast Guard’s role is in the United States since this was an area that was new to Mr. Fernandez. Then we rushed to go get lunch in the dining hall before it ended. After the lunch we once again went to the VTS and VTC stations to allow the Senator’s representative to see what a large role Coast Guard Sector New York plays not only in New York Harbor but also in New Jersey waters.Now for the best part: after touring the VTS and VTC we were driven to where sector New York stores most of their vessels. Here we met Lieutenant Commander Wash who oversaw the boating operation and spoke to the Harbor School visitors as he allowed us to board some of their 45 foot fast boats. After touring some of the vessels, we were brought back to the Coast Guard base, where we sat in on a briefing about an explosion that had happened recently in New Jersey involving hazardous materials. It came under the Coast Guard’s jurisdiction since there was a chance that the chemicals might reach the water, and the explosion was in a coastal area. Lastly I had the opportunity to have a one on one interview with the Captain of the Port of New York. And if you want to know how that went stay tuned on vesselops.com and it will be up shortly.