‘Brownwater University’ Educational Conference Set For Houston October 29–31

Brownwater University, a three-day, introductory educational conference aimed at bringing together newcomers to the maritime industry and members of the U.S. Coast Guard stationed in the Western Gulf of Mexico region, will convene October 29–31 in the Houston area. The event is an annual cooperative effort between the U.S. Coast Guard, the inland barge industry and the Lone Star Harbor Safety Committee.

Jim Stark, president of the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association (GICA), said the event goes back more than a decade and really grew out of a desire to promote partnerships and a better collective understanding among waterway stakeholders and managers.

“It became clear that, for the junior members of the Coast Guard joining the Coast Guard team in the Houston area in particular, there was a need for cross training to help them better understand the brownwater industry and hear it from brownwater experts,” Stark said. “Likewise, for the junior folks in the industry, like new folks on the boats or new people in the office, there was a need for them to also have a joint training program where they could learn about the Coast Guard from Coast Guard members.”

Introductory Course

With that in mind, the first two days of the conference, held at the Houston Pilots’ facility in Deer Park, Texas, serves as an introductory course into the brownwater industry and operations on the inland waterways. Day one will feature an overview of the nation’s inland waterways and offer a survey of the business of towing. Participants will also benefit from a panel discussion focused on waterway stakeholder partnerships, featuring representatives from The American Waterways Operators, the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association and the Lone Star Harbor Safety Committee. Additional sessions will include a look at equipment and personnel, towing company operations and the role of harbor tugs.

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Day two will introduce attendees to the role of ship pilots and survey navigation safety, with a focus on Houston-area waterways, aids to navigation, reporting policies and U.S. Coast Guard investigations, and routine barge inspections. There will also be an in-depth discussion on the intersection of oceangoing ships and inland towboat and barge traffic. Day two of Brownwater University will also take a close look at the March 2019 Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) fire and spill that resulted in waterway restrictions on the Houston Ship Channel. Day two will conclude with a certificate presentation ceremony.

Then on day three of the conference, participants will gather at Seaman’s Church Institute’s training facility at the Port of Houston to try their hand at piloting a towing vessel in a simulated wheelhouse. The Seaman’s Church Institute simulator will place Brownwater University students in authentic waterway situations.

The event is free to attendees but is limited to 50 participants. For more information about this event or future Brownwater University conferences, contact Stark at