Written by Walter T. Ham IV
One of the principal architects of the U.S. Coast Guard’s first ever Maritime Commerce Strategic Outlook dedicated more than three decades to keeping mariners safe and keeping the nation’s economy on course.
Capt. Kevin C. Kiefer, the deputy director of the U.S. Marine Transportation System Directorate, completed his 34-year Coast Guard career during a ceremony at the Baltimore Cruise Terminal, May 9, 2019.
The U.S. Coast Guard MTS Directorate oversees waterways management; navigation systems, regulations and standards; domestic and international ice breaking; coastal and marine spatial planning; Arctic policy; and bridge permitting.
Leveraging Coast Guard, industry and academic expertise, Kiefer played a critical role in shaping the Maritime Commerce Strategic Outlook document that will guide the sea service’s efforts across the Marine Transportation System, the 25,000 miles of waterways that facilitate more than $4.6 trillion in economic activity a year.
The captain also championed the International Maritime Organization’s adoption of jointly developed U.S.-Russian Federation ship routing measures in the Bering Strait and Bering Sea, the first ever internationally recognized routing measures the IMO has approved for polar waters. The system of two-way routes is designed to help mariners avoid shoals, reefs and islands and to reduce the potential for marine casualties and environmental disasters.
During his MTS tour, the Cincinnati native also supported initiatives that allowed mariners to use electronic charts instead of paper charts and leveraged the use of Automatic Identification System Aids to Navigation to more quickly reopen ports following natural disasters.
Michael Emerson, the director of the MTS Directorate, presided over the ceremony. He lauded Kiefer for his many years of service and his efforts in the directorate.
“If you were to pick someone who is best all around, it would be Kevin,” said Emerson, also a retired Coast Guard captain. “He’s an inspector, investigator, regulations expert, and waterways expert – the guy you go to for all of the complicated issues that arise.”
Kiefer’s service in the MTS Directorate was shaped by three decades of operational and staff assignments, including two command tours.
Kiefer chose the Baltimore Cruise Terminal for his ceremony because he worked closely with the maritime and cruise industry when he served as the commander for Sector Maryland-National Capital Region. The Baltimore-based sector covers the nation’s capital, Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to serving as sector commander, Kiefer was also the captain of the port, federal maritime security coordinator, officer in charge of marine inspection and the regional search and rescue mission coordinator.
Prior to serving as the MTS deputy director, Kiefer was the chief of staff for the First Coast Guard District, the Boston-based command that oversees more than 11,000 Coast Guard and Auxiliary personnel, 30 cutters, 200 boats and seven aircraft across eight New England states.
Earlier in his career, Kiefer commanded Maritime Safety Unit (MSU) Huntington, West Virginia, covering the nation’s largest inland port. He also served as the lead planner for the military out-load operation in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, the largest U.S. military out-load operation since World War II.
In 2010, while leading the Office of Port and Facility Compliance, Kiefer was called on again. This time, he took on the worst oil spill in U.S. history as the National Incident Center staff director and current plans officer for the Deep Water Horizon oil spill response.
According to Kiefer, what was supposed to be a three week job became five months of long seven-day workweeks focused on directing the response to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The captain’s other notable field assignments include Marine Safety Office Tampa, Florida; Marine Safety Office Corpus Christi, Texas; and the then-Galveston, Texas-based medium endurance cutter Valiant (WMEC-621).
A graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Kiefer earned two master’s degrees from the University of Michigan. He was joined at his retirement ceremony by many classmates from the Coast Guard Academy (Class of ‘89) and the University of Michigan.
After visiting 35 countries on five continents and moving 12 times in 35 years, Kiefer said he and his family are ready to settle down in the Baltimore area.
Kiefer said he’ll always be grateful for the U.S. Coast Guard and the people he served with from his first day at the Coast Guard Academy to his last assignment at Coast Guard Headquarters.
“The Coast Guard has introduced me to amazing career opportunities, extraordinary travel adventures and most importantly wonderful people who have enriched my life both professionally and personally,” said Kiefer. “It’s been a true honor to work with so many people who share my love for and commitment to the Coast Guard and the maritime community.”