Captain’s Corner-Awesome Alaska

Captain Diehl President of the Greater Houston Port Bureau

I was able to combine business with pleasure last fall during a trip to the annual meeting of the Maritime Information Services of North America (MISNA) participants. The meeting took place in Juneau, Alaska, and Annette and I were able to fly up a few days early to immerse ourselves in the magnificent vistas of the country’s last frontier.

We made reservations months in advance for the small Peterson Lake cabin to enjoy two days relaxing and fishing within the Tongass National Forest. The cabin was accessed via a four-mile hike up a 2,000-ft. trail elevation that was rated as “easy” by the park standards. As we both like the outdoors, this seemed very do-able, so we bundled up our backpacks with enthusiasm.

The trail up proved more challenging than anticipated as it had rained for several days. We made good progress during the first two miles. After that, conditions deteriorated, and we were hiking less than a mile an hour. It was muddy in places, covered with

View from the cabin in the Tongass National Forest.

roots, and very slippery as we climbed upwards. When we arrived at our cabin, however, we discovered it was well worth our efforts. The view of the lake and mountains was superb from any place we looked.

One difference between Alaska and Texas is that in many parts of Alaska there are more bears than people. Bears don’t like pepper or noise, so, to keep from being consumed, we carried pepper spray and a fog horn everywhere – including visits to the outhouse. It brought a whole new dimension to the word “prepared”!

The two days were truly perfect, and the trip back down was a breeze — it took a mere two hours. Once back in Juneau, I was anxious to see what was going on with colleagues at MISNA and to visit the Marine Exchange of Alaska (see photo below). Situated in a new building, with amazing views out

Marine Exchange of Alaska

their windows, the Alaskan group is on watch 24/7 with extensive operations. This includes an innovative and sophisticated current flow and weather system, which collects data that is coupled with AIS information for assisting their ever-growing cruise ship industry. Broadcasting this supplemental AIS information is key for shipping in the Alaskan waters where the ripping currents are never slack and the weather is constantly changing. They are an inspiring team, never satisfied with the status quo, and always looking to move forward. Their comprehensive vessel tracking program is the best I’ve seen. The uniqueness of their situation is reminiscent of our own port region. Admittedly, we can’t claim the same stunning views, but the Houston Ship Channel is never slack either. We are always on the move, and the myriad of industry concerns is equally challenging. Our own Marine Exchange covers the Texas coast from Brownsville to Beaumont, and you can read more about the data and reports we generate on page 18.

It was excellent timing for me because we anticipate another milestone year for the Port Bureau as our new membership structure allows us to expand our role in the port region. As you will see on page 20, the Port Bureau will honor Shell Oil Company as the 2018 Maritime Company of the Year in August. Shell’s long history of leadership and support in the Ship Channel community sets the stage for an exceptional evening of celebration. We have more opportunities to become more engaged in the maritime industry that we will be rolling out during the year.

After several snow days in Houston in December and January, I feel like I’ve brought a little bit of Alaska back with me. But mostly, I came home with fresh motivation to accomplish more and eager to work with our membership and Marine Exchange to achieve new goals in our region.

  • Date February 20, 2018
  • Tags February 2018