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Marine Safety Unit Chicago

Waterways Management Division

The department handles the day-to-day waterway management issues and concerns that arise on our busy waterways which encompasses Southern Lake Michigan, and over 177 miles of river including the Chicago River (Main, North, and South branches), the Calumet River, the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the Des Plaines River, and the Illinois River.

They work closely with various waterway stakeholders and users including: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Chicago and Rock Island Districts, the City of Chicago, the Illinois River Carriers Association, American Waterways Operators, Chicago Park District, Private and Public Developers, USCG Eighth and Ninth District Aids to Navigation and Bridge Branches to not only ensure that commercial mariners have free and unobstructed use of our Federal navigable waters, but that all users maintain equal access to safe and secure public waterways.

They also review applications for marine event permits and draft local notices to mariners including temporary and permanent safety and security zones as well as broadcast notices to mariners.


Facilities Division

The Facilities Division conducts the annual MTSA Compliance exams for 101 facilities required to meet the security regulations found in 33 CFR 105. These inspections include the review and approval of Security Plans; on-site verification of the plan's implementation, documentation, and training; as well as participation in drills and exercises. MTSA Security Spot-checks (an abbreviated version of the annual MTSA Compliance exam) are also conducted randomly throughout the year at each regulated facility.

Additionally, our Facilities Inspectors oversee annual safety and environmental compliance inspections of 40 facilities that transfer bulk oil and hazardous materials and 5 facilities that transfer cargoes of a particular hazard.  These inspections include the review and approval of Operation and Emergency Manuals, as well as Response Plans in preparation for on-site visits to ensure compliance with federal regulations including verification of documentation and training, participation in drills and exercises, and transfer monitors of oil and hazardous materials.

Inspections Division

A primary mission of MSU Chicago is to ensure that commercial vessels operating within the MSU's area of responsibility are in full compliance with applicable federal laws and regulations. Our marine inspectors ensure that vessels are seaworthy and properly maintained. This includes ensuring machinery, steering, and other engineering systems function properly; that vessel repairs are m ade in accordance with established standards; that crews are adequately trained and proficient in their duties; and that lifesaving and firefighting equipment is properly maintained and readily available. The current fleet of vessels in MSU Chicago's area of responsibility is 235, resulting in an average of 707 inspections per year. The types of commercial vessels operating within the MSU's area of responsibility include:

The ultimate goal is to reduce the risk of injury to persons, damage to property, and to protect the marine environment.

Response Division

One of the primary missions of the Response and Facilities Department is emergency response to pollution incidents. This includes containment and clean-up of oil discharges and hazardous substances introduced into the navigable waters of the United States. Whether the incident involves a few gallons of diesel from a pleasure boat or thousands of gallons of fuel oil from a large vessel, our pollution responders use the best tools and contract the best equipment and personnel to clean up the spill and lessen environmental damage. Our personnel are trained in Incident Command System procedures and carry the qualifications of Pollution Responder (PR) and Federal On Scene Coordinator Representative (FOSCR). By all available means we ensure persons responsible for discharges are contacted and directed to initiate mitigation and clean-up action. In a joint effort to minimize damage to the environment caused by pollutants, the Marine Safety Unit coordinates response efforts to spills with other involved agencies, including other Federal, State and local partners.

The Response Division has several other functions besides pollution response, including:

Investigations Division

The Investigations Division investigates all reportable marine casualties, violations of law or regulation, and acts of misconduct or negligence by licensed or documented merchant mariners. These investigations seek to determine cause and detect violations of law/regulation, which contributed to the cause of the casualty. They also process the necessary paperwork for civil penalty action cases resulting from violations of inspection laws and the negligent operation of vessels. Additionally, they investigate and present before the Administrative Law Judge, when appropriate, suspension and revocation-related issues involving: alleged misconduct; negligence; incompetence by merchant mariners; and violations of dangerous drug laws.
They also actively audit the Marine Employer Chemical Testing Program to ensure compliance with these important regulations. They investigate marine casualties and accidents to determine the root cause, so that through regulation and education similar incidents might be prevented from reoccurring. Additionally, they  investigate incidents to collect evidence of misconduct, negligence, or violation of law or regulation by Coast Guard licensed, certificated, or documented members of the Merchant Marine. Such cases are then presented before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who can suspend or revoke a mariners license, or allow mariners to develop a joint motion, or mutually agreed upon penalty with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Tenant Commands
Planning Detachment

Detachment of two civilian employees from Sector Lake Michigan that handle port security and contingency planning needs in the MSU Chicago area of responsibility. To plan and prepare Sector Lake Michigan to respond to contingencies in accordance with the National Response Framework in the Marine Safety Unit Chicago area of responsibility. This is accomplished through area maritime safety and security plan development incorporating communication with federal, state, and local stakeholders to coordinate and evaluate exercises.

Electronic Support Division Detachment (ESDD)

Detachment of two active duty electronic support personnel co-located at MSU Chicago that service all Coast Guard units in the greater Chicago area.

Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS)

Resident Agent Office Chicago is staffed by three Special Agents and is currently co-located with MSU Chicago.

Other Local Units
 USCG Auxiliary  U.S. Coast Guard Recruiting
 Station Calumet Harbor  Station Wilmette
 Station Michigan City
Last Modified 6/2/2015