VIDEO: Rescue boat shows its stuff in two-week tour

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A two-week voyage through four Great Lakes and the Mississippi River will bring to the Port of Houston Authority the third of three new high-performance emergency response vessels.

The new FireStorm 70 is a state-of-the-art command center and high-speed response vessel built by MetalCraft Marine. The fireboat has quad diesel inboard engines that propel the boat at a top speed of 45 knots.

The new boats equip the Port Authority's firefighting team with what some describe as the most sophisticated fleet in the world. The new vessels are highly maneuverable, can make quick stops and change direction within three boat lengths.

"The Port of Houston is one of the nation's busiest ports, and protecting this national asset is essential to the economic well-being of Houston, Texas and the nation," Port Authority executive director Roger Guenther said in a statement. "This vessel completes our new fleet, providing our firefighters with the advanced equipment needed to help save lives and property along the Houston Ship Channel."

The Port of Houston Fire Department operates three fire stations, strategically stationed along the 52-mile-long ship channel.

Certified emergency professionals respond to marine and land fires and other emergencies along the upper ship channel.

A four-member crew, which includes two from the Port of Houston Authority's Fire Department, is escorting the FireStorm 70 home to Houston.

The voyage is being made by Assistant Chief Mike Oder Sr., a 34-year veteran of the Port Authority's Fire Department, and Assistant Chief Jason Roberts, a 13-year veteran of the firefighting team.

They are part of a 57-member department of highly trained firefighters and Hazardous Materials Response Teams. The firefighters are certified by the state of Texas as structural firefighter, marine firefighter, haz-mat technician and emergency medical technician. All pilots and captains are licensed Coast Guard mariners.

The emergency response vessel is scheduled to follow a course from Lake Ontario and Lake Erie to Detroit (May 16) and then across Lake Huron and Lake Michigan to Chicago (May 18). From Chicago, the journey continues on the Cumberland River to Peoria, Ill. (May 19).

Following the Illinois River, the fireboat sails on to St. Louis (May 20), where it will enter the Mississippi River and continue with stops in Memphis, Tenn. (May 22), Vicksburg, Tenn., (May 23) and New Orleans (May 23). A final stop will be made at Galveston, Texas, (May 24) before the boat arrives at the Port of Houston on or around May 28.