Gulf Waterway Stakeholders To Review Hurricane Response Protocol

One of the enduring outgrowths of Hurricane Katrina, at least as it relates to the ports and waterways, is the Gulf Coast Inland Waterways Joint Hurricane Team and the Joint Hurricane Response Protocol.

That team, made up of members of the towboat and barge industry, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Gulf states, came together after the busy 2005 hurricane season to identify lessons learned, best practices and ways the marine industry and federal agencies can partner during hurricane preparation, response and recovery. The result was the Joint Hurricane Response Protocol, which focuses on the relationships, roles and responsibilities of maritime stakeholders and waterway managers as they anticipate storms and reconstitute waterways post-storm.

With the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season set to begin on June 1, waterway stakeholders will gather May 25 at the Port of New Orleans’ headquarters on the east bank of the Mississippi River in New Orleans to review the protocol and any updates to it, based on recent storms like Hurricane Ida in 2021.

“[The protocol] provides the coordinating mechanism (i.e. the connective tissue) between the marine industry and the key federal response agencies (USCG and USACE),” said Paul Dittman, president of the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association (GICA). “This is accomplished in large part through the designation of GICA as the primary information conduit to and from the USCG and USACE with the inland marine industry along the Gulf Coast.”

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The protocol also identifies four industry response teams, which partner with waterway managers on different aspects of tropical storm response and recovery: the Incident Command Team, which is embedded with USCG to assist with waterway issues and communications; the Self Help Team, which deploys port captains to waterway hot spots to help manage traffic; Waterway Assessment Teams, which supply small boats post-storm to assess channels; and the Logistics Support Center Team, which partners with federal agencies to locate critical equipment and supplies in the aftermath of storms.

“The bottom line is it works,” Dittman said of the protocol, “and that is due in very large part to the strong and effective relationships, based on mutual respect, between the inland marine industry and our USCG and USACE partners. The meeting each year is as much an opportunity to renew and refresh these relationships as it is an opportunity to review the plan.”

The meeting will open with remarks from the Eighth Coast Guard District. Lauren Nash, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, will then provide a 2023 hurricane season forecast. The meeting will also feature presentations from Dittman; NOAA; the New Orleans, Mobile and Galveston engineer districts; and Coast Guard groups from sectors Mobile, New Orleans and Houston-Galveston, along with Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi.

For more information and to review the 2023 draft of the Joint Hurricane Response Protocol, visit