For the Key West Coast Guard, safety of citizens is critical

The Coast Guard in Key West never seems to slow down and this week, Key West will be recognized as a US Coast Guard City as well as celebrating the Coast Guard’s 232nd anniversary. It will all happen on August 4.

Captain Jason Ingram, Commander of the Coast Guard Sector Key West, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to update listeners on the waterways.

Captain Ingram said, “It is a big day for us and Key West is going to be designated the 30th Coast Guard City. The only other Coast Guard City that we have in Florida is up in Clearwater.”

The event will be held at 10 a.m. August 4 on the Truman Waterfront.

Captain Ingram said, “The reason we have this designation is just the wonderful working relationship we have with all the partners in and around the city and Coast Guard families.”

That relationship is a key factor to being recognized as a Coast Guard City.

Captain Ingram said, “It just makes it so much easier for us to do our jobs and then your Coast Guard down here can get after the missions that we have.”

This is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime type event, so don’t miss it.

The Coast Guard helped a lot with lobster mini season as well.

Captain Ingram said, “Our stations get out and make sure that everybody is diving and snorkeling safely. Unfortunately we had a bad start to that one, overall four fatalities involved and associated during the mini season time. We want people to come down here and boat or snorkel or dive or fish, whatever those outdoor activities, but we need them to do that safely. When we have an influx of a lot of boats coming from out of the area, it just makes everything more congested, but a lot of times what we see is people that come down to the Florida Keys and are not familiar with operating their vessels in and around the Florida Keys and a lot of the areas are unforgiving with regard to boat. It looks like you’re running in a good spot and you learn really quickly that nope, it’s not deep enough to run the boat.”

The proper safety gear is critical. Dive flags are needed and people have to be able to see it.

Captain Ingram said, “Our main safety mission is always there, making sure the boating public is out and has their proper safety gear, whether they’re on vessels, on kayaks, paddle boards, but also we can enforce the law enforcement side of the house. So our stations took a look at almost 1,000 lobsters, make sure they were of legal size. That event is really supporting the FWC side of the house and our local partners.”

Intercepting migrants is also a job for the Coast Guard. In fact, last week there were 35 migrants in the water and potentially in distress.

Captain Ingram said, “Luckily we were able to save everyone for that one, but that happened right in the middle of lobster mini season. So Wednesday late night into Thursday early morning, we got a report that about 35 miles northwest of Havana that there was a Cuban migrant vessel that had 30 to 40 people on board and that report came from a bulk carrier en route to Mexico.”

When the 1,000-foot tanker came alongside the vessel, the people inside were bailing water to try to stay afloat, so the tanker contacted the Coast Guard.

A total of 35 people were recovered from the water.

Captain Ingram said, “The message here is just I urge all those individuals with loved ones in Cuba to pass along, do not take to the sea. These voyages are dangerous and can result in large scale loss of life. The seas can kick up in a moment’s notice.”

Migrants are turned over to border patrol. The Coast Guard’s mission is to interdict and almost all the vessels they stop are taking on water.

Captain Ingram said, “So it’s not a matter of if they’re going to sink for us, it’s when they’re going to sink. This is truly a safety of life at sea concern. They don’t always turn out the way that this one did with us saving those lives. That’s where we try to interdict the vessel and recover the individuals and make sure they’re safe.”