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*With 16 years of service behind her, Lt. Commander Zeita Merchant, executive officer, Marine Safety Office, Texas City, U.S. Coast Guard, has served in exemplary roles during an era requiring critical responses at sea. Ricardo M. Alonzo, commanding officer, Marine Safety Unit, recalled Dr. Merchant’s recent involvement with the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, the nation’s first declared Spill of National Significance.
“In April 2010, LCDR Merchant was selected as a Strategic Planner for the first National Incident Command (NIC) for the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill. The NIC coordinated inter agency efforts on a wide variety of issues responders faced, and dealt with high-level political and media inquiries.
Later that October, her expertise was needed for the response once again to lead a team of government and private sector Ph.D.-level scientists charged with analysis of scientific monitoring and sampling operations of oil and dispersant onshore, offshore and in deep water during the response. Also during her tenure as executive officer, she has provided vital leadership as Deputy Incident Commander on marine incidents including an offshore collision of two loaded chemical tankers resulting in internal and external damage to both vessels, a 1,900 gallon heavy fuel oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and a complex joint inter agency boarding on a foreign vessel that resulted in the unit’s first ever narcotic seizure valued at over $1.3 million dollars, Alonzo explained.
In addition to her operational expertise, LCDR Merchant is an impeccable role model. She was hand-picked as the face of the Coast Guard for a high-visibility partnership with the Houston Port Authority and Texas Southern University’s Maritime Transportation Program. She serves on the university’s Maritime Industry Advisory Board and has served as a guest speaker numerous times at their Summer Transportation Maritime Academy. As the Coast Guard’s Ambassador to the University, LCDR Merchant has “enhanced outreach and recruitment of well qualified students in the areas of science, engineering, technology, operations, logistics, and mathematics,” Alonzo said.
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