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GICA To Host 114th Annual Seminar Next Month In New Orleans

Members of the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association (GICA) and managers and stakeholders of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) will gather in New Orleans, La., August 7–9 for the 114th annual GICA seminar.

This year, the seminar will be held at the InterContinental New Orleans, located at 444 St. Charles Avenue. Registration, sponsor and exhibitor details are available on the association’s website, www.gicaonline.com. A special hotel rate available for seminar attendees is available through July 25. A link for booking accommodations is also available on the GICA website.

As in years past, the seminar will open with a golf tournament at Lakewood Golf Club in nearby Algiers. Tee time is 8 a.m. August 7, and registration is still open. More than 80 golfers have registered for the tournament so far. Registration and sponsorship details are available online.

The first day of the seminar will also feature a meeting of the GICA board of directors at 3:30 p.m. at the InterContinental and a welcome reception to follow at 6 p.m.

Day two will open at 8 a.m. August 8 with welcome remarks from GICA board chairman Tom Marian, general counsel for Buffalo Marine Service Inc. U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) is also confirmed to speak during the first general session.

“Sen. Kennedy is a strong supporter of our interests and our waterway, so we’re looking forward to hearing from him,” said GICA President Jim Stark.

Also part of the first general session will be presentations from both Mike Toohey, president and CEO of Waterways Council Inc.; and Craig Montesano, vice president of legislative affairs for American Waterways Operators. Toohey will focus on waterway infrastructure projects and challenges from a Washington, D.C., perspective, while Montesano will address regulatory issues facing waterway operators.

The second general session will open with a towing industry CEO panel discussion, where leaders will discuss challenges and trends that impact GIWW operators. The morning will conclude with presentations from commanders and operations chiefs from the Galveston, New Orleans and Mobile Engineer districts.

To begin the afternoon of August 8, the third general session will open with an in-depth look at the Houston Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) fire and subsequent oil spill, which impacted ship and towing vessel traffic on the Houston Ship Channel. Capt. Kevin Oditt, commander of Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston, will lead the discussion.

“The panel will hopefully focus on some lessons learned and ways we can apply that knowledge and experience next time a similar event occurs,” Stark said.

Seamen’s Church Institute’s John Arenstam will then lead a panel discussion on education opportunities open to brownwater mariners. Panelists will include representatives from the San Jacinto Maritime Technology & Training Center in Houston, Delgado Community College in New Orleans, and Northshore Technical Community College, with campuses north of Lake Pontchartrain.

The day will close with a panel made up of the Chiefs of Inspections (CIDs) from U.S. Coast Guard sectors along the GIWW. CIDs will discuss top issues for implementing Subchapter M and field questions from industry representatives regarding inspection consistency across various Coast Guard sectors. Cmdr. Andrew Bender from the Towing Vessel National Center of Excellence will then take a wider look at Subchapter M implementation in its first year in effect.

Day three of the seminar will feature the always lively GIWW towboat operators panel, followed by a presentation by Texas Transportation Institute’s Brianne Glover on the economic impacts of the GIWW. Spencer Murphy, general counsel for Canal Barge Company and a member of the Inland Waterways Users Board, will discuss priority infrastructure projects on the Users Board’s Capital Improvement Plan, namely the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (IHNC) Lock replacement in New Orleans. A chief’s report for the IHNC Lock replacement project is expected by year’s end.

Finally, the seminar will conclude with a presentation by Forest Vanderbilt from the Corps of Engineers’ Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center, who will discuss why it’s important for GIWW operators to report tonnage statistics and how the Corps uses that data.

A full draft agenda is available on the GICA website.

Amazingly, when GICA was first formed, Theodore Roosevelt was president and the opening of the Panama Canal was still almost a decade away.

Formed to advocate for development of a new waterway connecting ports along the Gulf Coast, the association would have to wait more than 40 years to see that goal come to fruition, with the GIWW completed in 1949. Now 70 years since its full completion, the GIWW has grown into one of the busiest waterways in the United States and, arguably, the country’s most significant energy corridor.

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