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By Wayne Spivak - New York - USA

No Holiday For Auxiliarist Taking Charge
of Floating Shelter

click for bio

PASCAGOULA, MS - Government officials here are lauding the work being done by volunteers from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary aboard the cruise ship Holday, berthed in Pascagoula since Oct. 29 and being used as a "floating shelter" for displaced people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The federal government contracted the Holiday from Carnival Cruise Lines and the ship is now housing 1,500 persons.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary has been active with the ship since the beginning of its use as a shelter.

"The Auxiliary continues to help and provide comfort to thousands of people transitioning into and out of this floating shelter in Pascagoula," says U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Harry Chichester, currently serving in the FEMA Joint Field Office in Jackson, MS.

One Auxiliarist has been singled out for special praise by federal officials involved with post-Katrina operations. He is the Incident Commander aboard the vessel, Herve Riou, a member of Flotilla 12-03 in Glen Cove, NY.

Riou's role as the Incident Commander puts him directly in charge and responsible for the shelter and its population.

click to enlargePascagoula, Miss., November 10, 2005 -- Carnival Cruise Line Hotel Director Andrew Mace (right) and FEMA representative Herve Riou describe the food services aboard the cruise ship Holiday. The cruise ship is being used to house Mississippi residents displaced from their homes by Hurricane Katrina. FEMA/Mark Wolfe

(click images for larger views)

Although supported by Carnival Cruise Lines and the Captain's Staff and Crew, the ultimate responsibility on the operation of the shelter remains with Riou, who is also the main FEMA point-of-contact for the vessel, which was moved to the Mississippi port from Mobile, AL. This means any issues with FEMA, including multi-million dollar funding issues, must be addressed through Riou.

"In short, with the size of the shelter, he is really in a position similar to mayor of a small town," explains CWO Chichester. "My dealings with Herve have shown him to be an Auxiliarist that in all regards is highly professional, attentive to his duties, and caring to all, especially those he is responsible for."

Speaking to reporters recently aboard the Holiday, Riou said he could empathize with the refugees and noted how being closer to their homes, schools, churches and jobs after the vessel was moved from Alabama has boosted morale.

"I grew up in a small village on the coast of France, so I know the importance of family roots. People are much happier (in Pascagoula), much more relaxed," said Riou.

When the ship was in Mobile, more than 200 schoolchildren from Mississippi had to be rousted before 5 a.m. in order to get them to their schools on time.

click to enlargePascagoula, Miss., November 8, 2005 -- FEMA representative Herve Riou (left) shows local officials around the Carnival cruise ship Holiday. The cruise ship is being used to house Mississippi residents displaced from their homes by Hurricane Katrina. FEMA/Mark Wolfe

Riou said he has emphasized keeping families together. When a single cabin – each having two to four bunks – is not enough for one family Riou tries to place their rooms as closely together as possible.

Despite security based on U.S. Coast Guard standards and weekly cabin checks, there have been some incidents. Officials say some 15 to 20 individuals have been asked to leave the ship since it became a federal facility.

Under contract, Carnival has provided three cruise ships, including the Holiday, to be used as emergency shelters through March, or until residents find more permanent or alternative housing options.

For Auxiliarist Riou, his temporary job as virtual mayor of this floating city has him bringing his various skill sets to the ship. He has been CFO and COO of Montague Technology Management since its inception in 1996. In those posts he has been responsible for the management of large team projects and the development of company alliances.

click to enlargePascagoula, Miss., November 10, 2005 -- FEMA representative Herve Riou (center) is interviewed by the local television station aboard the cruise ship Holiday. The cruise ship is being used to house Mississippi residents displaced from their homes by Hurricane Katrina. FEMA/Mark Wolfe

"I would have achieved nothing without the support and help of my fellow Auxiliary members who are so dedicated and professional to the task," Riou said. " I have also been supported by a great team of supervisors who did everything they could to have us succeed."

Riou is also a skilled restaurateur recognized at the highest levels, including election to the French Académie Culinaire, and has owned or been a partner in successful restaurants. He was also involved in developing food service operations at Madison Square Garden and helping Donald Trump revamp his flagship restaurant at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

While working at World Yacht he was responsible for bringing the New Yorker, the firm's largest vessel, into service. He supervised the training of over 100 staff and developed the operational procedures used on tours for up to 2,000 guests.

Riou came to the U.S. in 1989 and was granted U.S. citizenship in 1996.

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is composed of uniformed, non-military volunteer's who assist the Coast Guard in all of its varied missions, except for military and direct law enforcement. These men and women can be found on the nation's waterways, in the air, in classrooms and on the dock, performing Maritime Domain Awareness patrols, safety patrols, vessel safety checks and public education.

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary was founded in 1939 by an Act of Congress as the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve and re-designated as the Auxiliary in 1941. Its 31,000 members donate millions of hours annually in support of Coast Guard missions.