Woman takes helm as Coast Guard Seattle port captain


Last updated August 7, 2008 10:50 a.m. PT


A woman Coast Guard captain has become the top sea-dog from Canada to Oregon, essentially enforcing the laws of the sea and fulfilling the Coast Guard’s many missions in 3,500 square miles of regional waters as “captain of the port.”

Coast Guard Capt. Stephen P. Metruck, who for the last three years has commanded Sector Seattle, winning respect for many of his efforts from diverse groups, transfers command in formal public ceremonies Thursday to the first woman to hold the complex and powerful job here, Capt. Suzanne E. Englebert.A sector commander is responsible for all operations in a given area of responsibility, and wears the hats of port captain and federal maritime security coordinator, wielding broad marine powers that include homeland security, law enforcement, search and rescue, and environmental response.

Sector Seattle’s responsibilities are more complicated by factors that include a border with Canada, the nation’s third largest strategic Navy port, the nation’s largest ferry system and third largest container port, home of the Alaskan fishing fleet, 200 cruise ship arrivals a year, 1.3 million recreational boaters, and movement of 15 billion gallons of oil products annually, according to Coast Guard information.

Metruck is moving on to become a fellow on the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

Englebert reports to the sector headquarters at Pier 36 from Coast Guard District Seven in Miami, Fla, where she was chief of prevention. A Coast Guard Academy graduate, she holds a degree in naval architecture and engineering and a graduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan.

She is not the first woman to command one of the Coast Guard’s 35 sectors in the nation. According to the Coast Guard, when Capt. Jane M. Hartley, became the commanding officer of the Marine Safety Office in Wilmington, N.C. in June 2002, as such she became the first woman in the Coast Guard to become “Captain of the Port.”

Metruck, whose hometown is Massena, N.Y., has been highly regarded as an effective and responsive commander during his tenure here.

“Metruck has shown and openness and receptivity for the broadest constituents of the maritime community and for this we are greatly appreciative,” said Fred Felleman, an environmental consultant who has worked with many captains-of-the-port over the years.

A Makah Indian Nation delegation from Neah Bay, meanwhile, has traveled to Seattle to thank Metruck efforts most evident by the tribe’s recent appointment as the first Native American tribe on the West Coast to be appointed to the important regional response team.

They will present Metruck with a a “friendship rattle” and traditional song.

“Tribal custom recognizes a person of importance with a chant or prayer song,” said Chad Bowechop, a policy analyst for the Makah nation specializing in oil spill prevention and response issues. He is attending with Michael Lawrence, vice chairman of the tribal council. Participating in the region response team is a landmark step, opening the door for recognizing tribal interest in helping to set regulations and damages in oil spills and other environmental calamities.

“To us this is an important event…We have had over three million gallons of oil spilled in our treaty area” in the last three decades, Bowechop said, “and we have one of the largest fisheries for a treaty tribe in the country… it is so important that we are able to express this indigenous perspective.”

While Metruck stood on the shoulders of other Coast Guard officials, Bowechop said, he was particularly culturally sensitive and took time to study the tribe’s treaty, helping Makah representatives not only to mesh marine protection interests with the state and federal landscapes, but encouraging stronger relations with the tribe and industry, particularly steamship and oil companies, to protect marine resources, he said.

P-I reporter Mike Barber can be reached at 206-448-8018 or mikebarber@seattlepi.com.

© 1998-2008 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

~ by fredfelleman on August 8, 2008.

2 Responses to “Woman takes helm as Coast Guard Seattle port captain”

  1. Great story, enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing…

  2. Glad you liked it. It’s not everday I have something nice to say about the CG. I only wish there were more folks like Cpt. Metruck in DC.

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