By Merrill Witty
Captain Joseph Loring, Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region, always had an affinity for the sea.
So, it was not a hard choice when it came time to decide on a career.
The Massachusetts native graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1994 and has since traveled all over the United States.
“I always liked being around the water, so I pursued it,” he said.
Loring has enjoyed some “pretty cool jobs and had fun” everywhere he’s been. For example, he previously was the executive officer of the Pacific strike team in California in charge of pollution response and hazmat control.
But, no doubt about it, his present job, which includes working with the Port of Baltimore, has been “the high point” of his career.
“It’s a very busy command, a terrific assignment,” Loring said. “I work with great people every day. This is a job you work your whole career to get.”
Sadly, though, it’s not forever.
“It’s a three-year tour; I have two left,” he lamented.
As the Sector Commander of Maryland-National Capital Region, Loring is responsible for the Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay, the waters off Ocean City, and the National Capital Region of Washington, D.C. His accountability includes law enforcement, intelligence collection and waterways management, including boat races and other such events.
And there’s marine safety — inspection of every commercial vessel, whether under a U.S. or foreign flag, in the Port of Baltimore’s waters.
“Every boat that shows up in a U.S. port is thoroughly vetted,” he added. “We know the crew, know the cargo and have 96 hours’ notice. We also have seven multi-mission stations with 29 U.S. Coast Guard boats, one cutter and three ‘aids to navigation’ teams for our area of responsibility. We’re the primary inspectors for cargo ships, oil tankers, ferries, down to D.C dinner cruises; we ensure safe and secure navigation in the region.”
Even though Loring is Sector Commander, he couldn’t do it without his deputy and staff to cover mayday calls, law enforcement and pollution control with partners that include the Maryland National Resources Police, for one.
The Coast Guard’s mission is three-pronged: homeland security, search and rescue, and pollution response.
“We’re the federal on-scene coordinators for oil spills or hazmat release. On land, that’s the [Environmental Protection Agency’s] responsibility; on navigable waters, it’s the Coast Guard. Whoever spilled the oil is responsible for cleaning it up. They hire a contractor to do it, but we oversee the operation.”
Loring has moved his wife and three children nine times over his career.
“It’s challenging for kids,” he said, “but mine have been great about it and see it as an adventure. They’ve lived on the Great Lakes, the Gulf Coast, the East and West coasts and Colorado. It’s made them pretty well rounded and grounded.”
Loring’s attendance at Baltimore Port Alliance meetings is important as well.
“As the captain of the Port, he attends these meetings to ensure the Coast Guard shares relevant information and remains up to date on the concerns of the Port community,” said Cmdr. Mathew Fine, the Sector Maryland-National Capital Region Deputy Commander. “The Port partner relationships within Baltimore are exceptional and serve as an example for other areas.”
As far as the future goes, Loring said, “Our mission will remain the same. But technology changes so fast — everything the Port does has a cyber aspect.”
Cybercrime is a very real threat, he says, and the constant and growing need for cybersecurity the world over is very real.