U.S. Coast Guard and port reponse partners evaluate simulated terrorist attack in Honolulu Harbor

HONOLULU — U.S. Coast Guard crews partnered with federal, state, and local officials today to conduct a simulated exercise which simulated a joint coordination response to a terrorist attack in Honolulu Harbor.

The exercise was staged the Clean Island Council response center on Sand Island and did not involve any tactical assets or the harbor itself.

The joint response was in reaction to a simulated case in which a terrorist organization hijacks a ship and then sinks it in Honolulu Harbor, blocking the shipping channel and cutting off the transfer of goods and services. Officials and marine industry leaders acted together to discuss salvage response, maritime transportation system recovery, alternative delivery methods, and economic, social, and national security impacts.

The goal of this exercise was to test and validate a new Coast Guard-created Salvage Response Plan for Honolulu.

“We never know what could be knocked out during a natural disaster or a terrorist attack,” said Capt. Barry Compagnoni, the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port, Honolulu. “Most of our goods are shipped here, so the proper functioning of our Marine Transportation System (MTS) in Hawaii is essential to our survival.”

It is expected that a hurricane, natural disaster or terrorist attack could disrupt the operations in the port of Honoluluwith debris, sunken vessels, flooding, pollution and the destruction of maritime aids to navigation. In the event of a catastrophe affecting the port, the Coast Guard will bring together government and industry officials into a unified command.

The unified command sets objectives and priorities for responders charged with getting the port reopened in the fastest, most efficient method to resume shipments into Hawaii. Today, those officials came together to run through a fictional scenario and determine a coordinated response.

“It’s very important that each of the port stakeholders provide input into the response,” said Compagnoni. “That’s what we do with a group like this here today.”

The Salvage Plan was developed after Congress passed the SAFE Port Act in 2006 as a result of lessons learned from the Hurricane Katrina response in New Orleans. Members of the Coast Guard-led Area Maritime Security Committee, which includes both government and industry partners, coordinated to develop a unified plan for port reconstitution after a major disaster. The plan focuses on marine salvage and services needed to reopen navigable waterways to maritime commerce.

The salvage plan includes organizational guidelines, processes and salvage resources. It covers each of the commercial ports on the neighbor islands and American Samoa.

“It’s extremely valuable for each of these agencies and industry to get together before an incident and discuss our various roles and responsibilities in regards to the reconstitution of the Port of Honolulu,” said Anne Stevens, a domestic preparedness planner with State Civil Defense. “Because of today’s exercise we are better prepared to respond to a real disruption in Honolulu Harbor.”

Throughout the year, Coast Guard officials, together with government and industry partners, coordinate simulated responses to various contingencies in order to determine the best methods to reopen the supply lines to Hawaii.

Exercise participants included the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration; State of Hawaii Civil Defense, State of Hawaii Department of Transportation Harbors Division; Honolulu Department of Emergency Management; and Titan Marine Salvage, Young Brothers, Matson Navigation, Horizon Lines, Sause Brothers, Hawaii Pilots Association, Retail Merchants of Hawaii, Marine Cargo Surveys of Hawaii, and Clean Islands Council (industry or non-government agencies).

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