The schedule of events at the upcoming annual seminar of the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association (GICA), to be held at the Westin Canal Place in New Orleans August 4–6, testifies to the diversity of GICA’s activities. One session will focus on how industry helped government agencies deal with the February freeze that threatened fish populations in the system, a rare and unfamiliar challenge. Other sessions will discuss infrastructure progress, crew wellness, hurricane preparation and response, and a pipeline industry briefing.
In this issue of the WJ, you can read more about Jim Stark’s 11-year tenure at the helm of GICA, which saw tremendous growth and changes along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The progress of hydraulic fracturing or fracking that led to the opening and exploitation of the huge nearby Permian Basin and other basins not only returned the United States to its position as a leading oil and gas producer and exporter, it also led to explosive growth and investment not only in Houston and the “energy coast,” but along the entire GIWW.
“All Gulf Coast ports have seen growth and progress” during this period, Stark told The Waterways Journal.
Everyday traffic management is challenging enough in the busiest waterway in the system, the Houston Ship Channel. The Houston Ship Channel complex and its more than 200 public and private terminals in the Port of Houston is the nation’s largest port for waterborne tonnage and an economic engine not only for Houston, but for Texas and the U.S. as well. Economic activity at the Port of Houston is responsible for 20.6 percent of Texas’ total gross domestic product and $801.9 billion in economic impact across the nation.
Elsewhere in the system, GICA has been closely involved in coordinating traffic in conjunction with shutdowns of the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal in New Orleans.
In a real sense, the president of GICA is a co-administrator of the system, along with the Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard. Stark has had to work closely with the two agencies and industry representatives on a variety of issues that would be more than enough to tax any CEO. No organization besides GICA, and no leadership position other than its presidency, better illustrates the contention of The American Waterways Operators that the waterways industry already enjoys a public-private partnership with the agencies that manage our waterways.