In fact, Gulf Menhadens are said that can reduce manoeuvrability, and loss of water pressure within the firefighting system.

What is more, the species range throughout the Gulf of Mexico but are most abundant in the north-central Gulf, particularly in the waters off Texas and Louisiana.

They are found in coastal and inland tidal waters and form large surface schools that appear in near-shore Gulf waters.

The risk of encountering Menhaden related problems is at its highest between May and October.

In order to avoid incidents, the US Coast Guard recommends ship operators adhere to the following best practices when operating in the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Houston Ship Channel complex in particular:

  • Sea chests should not be used without filter strainers in place and should be monitored at all times.
  • Detailed procedures for cleaning seawater strainers should be established. These procedures may include back-flushing or regular changing and cleaning of duplex strainers as appropriate.
  • Prior to transit, inspect and clean the service sea chest. Ensure filters and coolers are clean prior to entry into US waters. Implement a preventive system that requires frequent cleaning and swapping between sea strainers.
  • Monitor the pressure on pumps and filters. Be prepared to respond quickly when reduced performance is observed.
  • Have a contingency plan in place and ensure all engineering staff is familiar with the plan. Consider posting a double watch in the engine room while in pilotage waters. Have crew ready to clean the strainers during transit.
  • All tools and equipment for opening the sea chest and cleaning the strainer should be prepared and ready for use.
  • Ships regularly transiting the HSC may consider having spare clean filter strainers onboard, allowing for quick changeover of strainers.
  • Consider implementing an engineering-designed approach, such as using the aft peak tank for seawater cooling purposes or internal cooling, which is commonly used for ships which operate in extreme cold weather conditions such as the Baltic Sea and Great Lakes during the winter.