The Port of Houston Authority has officially welcomed the first of a series of new high-performance emergency response vessels providing for enhanced security and firefighting capabilities along the 25-mile-long port complex.
The vessels, three in total, will be used to help protect facilities along the Houston Ship Channel, a waterway critically important to international commerce and home to the largest petrochemical complex in the United States. The new vessels, all of the Firestorm 70 model, will provide PHA firefighters with nearly three times the pumping power of the old fleet.
The significance of the upgrade in firefighting equipment was noted by Port Commission Chairman Janiece Longoria during a commissioning ceremony Wednesday at the Turning Basin Terminal’s Sam Houston Pavilion.
“We would not be here today to celebrate the christening of the first of these three new emergency response vessels without the support of our members of Congress,” Longoria said. “It is through a strong local and federal partnership that the Port of Houston can build the most sophisticated emergency response fleet in the world. Congressional members Gene Green and Sheila Jackson Lee have been staunch advocates for the Port of Houston and their support has been unwavering.”
The vessel, known as Fireboat 2, was purchased with awards from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency Port Security Grant Program as well as funding from the Port Authority.
It comes equipped with significant enhancements, including hazmat capabilities and infrared sonar, enabling the crew to see through murky water. Built by MetalCraft Marine, the fireboat has powerful quad diesel inboard engines providing a top speed of 45 knots — three times that of the current fleet vessels.
PHA Fire Chief William Buck began the formal program, which included a tribute to firefighters who lost their lives in New York City after the terrorist attacks of September 11. A crowd of about 100 was in attendence at the ceremony, including Port Commissioner Steve Phelps, Executive Director Len Waterworth, and many of the area’s first responders, as well as many area governmental representatives.
Before the formal blessing and christening ceremony, a retirement ceremony was held for the emergency response fireboat Tellepsen, named for Howard Tellepsen, Sr., Port Chairman from 1956 to 1970. The Tellepsen family was present for the ceremony and Longoria presented his son, Tom Tellepsen with the nameboard from the Tellepsen vessel.