Duluth’s Marine Safety Unit (MSU) of the U.S. Coast Guard will get a new commander June 19 when Cmdr. Frances Smith arrives from her post as executive officer at the MSU in Pittsburgh to take over for departing Cmdr. Erin Williams. The June 19 change-of-command ceremony will mark the first time for the Duluth unit that a woman commander takes over from another woman commander.
As commanding officer at MSU Duluth, captain of the port and officer-in-charge, marine inspection, Williams oversees the inspections for commercial vessel safety and security and waterfront facility safety and security as well as port security, environmental response and waterways management. Before taking over command in 2016, Williams served as the executive officer at Coast Guard Activities Europe in Schinnen, Netherlands. She assisted there with ensuring compliance of U.S. and foreign vessels with relevant regulations and international conventions throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Among her previous assignments, she was the executive officer for the MSU in Valdez, Alaska, where she earned the Capt. Dorothy Stratton Leadership Award. She was recognized for “her efforts to improve the lives of Coast Guardsmen in Valdez and promote a positive Coast Guard image.” Williams will be taking a post at the Coast Guard’s Leadership Development Training Center in New London, Ct.
The Duluth assignment should prove an interesting one for Cmdr. Frances Smith. MSU Pittsburgh, where she is now stationed, mainly handles river traffic – all domestic vessels including tow boats and barges – and so the Twin Ports ocean-going and Great Lakes vessels will be a bit different. She has been with MSU Pittsburgh since 2016 and was stationed at Yorktown, Va. Although Smith has yet to visit Duluth, the St. Louis native says she looks forward to all of our seasons, including winter sports here (she and her husband snowboard).