Skip to content

Puget Sound Harbor Safety Committee

Pulling Resources Together to Protect the Puget Sound


The mission of the PSHSC is to provide a proactive forum for identifying, assessing, planning, communicating, and implementing operational and environmental measures, beyond that which is in laws or regulations, that promote safe, secure, and efficient use of Puget Sound and adjacent waters. Created in 1997, the committee is made up of delegates appointed by broadly based organizations representing a span of interests focused on Puget Sound with support from various governmental agencies in advisory roles. PSHSC was formally incorporated as a non-profit organization on December 13, 2000.

Puget Sound is a large body of water in the state of Washington. It is a complex estuarine system of interconnected marine waterways and basins connected to the Pacific Ocean through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. However, the term “Puget Sound” is used not just for the body of water but also the general region centered on the sound. The PSHSC addresses its attention to the general region to include all the navigable waters of Northwest Washington. See the following Chapters of the U.S. Coast Pilot 7 for detailed discussions of the Puget Sound region to which the PSHSC gives its attention: Chapter 11 (Columbia River to Strait of Juan De Fuca, WA), Chapter 12 (Strait of Juan De Fuca & Georgia, WA), Chapter 13 (Puget Sound, WA).

PSHSC takes responsibility for capturing existing standards and protocols as well as developing new ones that address environmental and operational elements of maritime operations that are significant to Puget Sound. The standards and protocols contained in the Puget Sound Harbor Safety Plan complement and supplement existing federal, state and local laws and regulations with advice to mariners regarding unique conditions and requirements that may be encountered in Puget Sound and adjacent waters. These standards and protocols are not intended to supplant or otherwise conflict with the laws or regulations; nor are they intended to replace the good judgment of a ship’s master in the safe operation of his/her vessel.

The PSHSC meets four times a year, and all meetings are open to the public. For more information regarding upcoming or previous meetings, see below.

Our Membership

  • Chair: Patrick Gallagher, Marine Exchange of Puget Sound
  • Vice Chair: Peter Schrappen, American Waterways Operators
  • Secretary: John Dwyer, Retired Coast Guard
  • Treasurer: John Veentjer, Retired Coast Guard
  • Commercial Fishing (non-tribal)
  • Environmental Advocacy
  • Labor
  • Local Government
  • Maritime Services Organizations
  • Native American
  • Passenger Vessel Operators
  • Petroleum Shippers
  • Pilots
  • Public at Large
  • Public Ports
  • Recreational Boaters
  • State Ferry System
  • Steamship Lines
  • Tug and Barge
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • U.S. Army Corp of Engineers
  • U.S. Navy
  • U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD)
  • U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force
  • Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE)
  • Marine Exchange of Puget Sound

Upcoming Meeting


PACMAR & PSHSC Joint Meeting

A Joint Meeting of the British Columbia Western Marine Community Coalition (WMCC, aka PACMAR) and the Puget Sound Harbor Safety Committee (PSHSC) will be held virtually (MS Teams link below) on Wednesday, March 27, 2024, 10:00am to 12:00 noon.  The agenda will follow likely about a week before the meeting.

Harbor Safety Committees - General

Harbor Safety Committees (HSCs) are local committees that address issues that may include the safety, security, mobility, and environmental protection of a port or waterway. Membership is typically comprised of representatives of governmental agencies, maritime labor and industry organizations, and public interest groups. These members work very closely together for the mutual benefit of all waterway users and stakeholders. HSCs provide a public–private partnership toward ensuring effective, safe, secure and environmental sound maritime operations, providing a communication channel between the private sector and the government agencies with waterway responsibilities as well as communication between the many involved user and stakeholder entities.

The term “Harbor Safety Committee” is defined in the broadest sense as a local port/waterways coordinating body whose responsibilities include recommending actions to improve the safety and efficiency of a port or waterway, and which is comprised of representatives of government agencies, maritime industry management and labor organizations, environmental groups, and other non-governmental stakeholder interest groups. Although these port/waterway coordinating groups may be referred to in various ports under different names, such as Port Safety Forum, Marine Advisory Association, Port Advisory Group or other similar names, they are each generically what is termed as a Harbor Safety Committee and all primarily serve as one means to ensure communication among all stakeholders within the port(s) region.

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has long recognized the importance of local committees as the key to safe, efficient, and environmentally sound port operations. U.S. port complexes and their associated waterways and terminals are extremely diverse in infrastructure, management, function, and markets served. Local HSCs are often the only forums available to facility operators and other stakeholders to address issues regarding these fundamental issues. HSCs provide the means to organize in a coherent manner to address and resolve issues that affect port operations. This includes all manner of activities, including safety and navigation (including the maintenance and focus on aids to navigation), port congestion, commercial issues, dredging, establishing a VTS, port competitiveness, and overall port and waterway management.

The players/organizations within the HSCs are fairly consistent across all port areas and include most of these entities:

  • Port Authorities
  • Vessel owners and operators (tankers, dry cargo, barges, ferries)
  • Pilot associations
  • Marine Exchanges
  • Towing vessel operators
  • Shipping agents
  • Terminal operators
  • Industry associations (national, state, and local)
  • Organized Labor
  • Commercial Fishing Industry Associations
  • Environmental organizations
  • Tribes
  • Recreational boating organizations
  • Public at large
  • State / Local Government agencies:
  • Environmental Agencies
  • Regional Development Agencies
  • Emergency Management Agencies
  • LEPC (fire and police departments harbor masters)
  • Federal Government representatives:
  • U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)
  • National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — Hydrographic group
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
  • Maritime Administration

Industry has consistently expressed the need to provide input on decisions that affect their industry and livelihood. These end users have an extensive knowledge of the waterway and their experiences allow them to recommend measures to reduce risks and offer valuable advice on related issues. Industry strongly believes that it is important for the Captain of the Port (COTP) to maintain a non-regulatory role within the HSCs. For this reason within the scope of the local HSCs, the USCG works with industry as a partner versus a regulator.

Features that make HSCs very successful include:

  • HSCs are uniquely created to fit the specific needs of each port, for example, some are large, some small; some chaired by the USCG COTP and others by industry or state or local government;
  • HSCs provide a consensus-based approach to addressing port issues that facilitates acceptance of decisions;
  • HSCs are a forum where all stakeholders come together on an equal footing;
  • Stakeholders/participants stay focused on safety and the environment and come to realize they have common goals, regardless of their point of view;
  • HSCs work because the USCG and other government agencies are partners in the process, not controllers of it;
  • HSCs enable the public to interact with the industry and they hear one another’s point of view;
  • HSCs address port issues and challenges with a system perspective – they take into consideration that safety, security, environmental protection, and port efficiency issues all interact and affect each other; and
  • HSCs are organizationally flexible enough to adapt to the changing needs of the port.


Puget Sound Harbor Safety Plan

Puget Sound Harbor Safety Committee Bylaws

Join the PSHSC Mailing List

* indicates required