A "Save Our Shipyard" (SOS) march and rally was conducted in downtown New Orleans this past Saturday morning. The actual shipyard, Avondale, is located on the other side of the Mississippi river, near the foot of the Huey P. Long bridge. Most readers also are aware of a grassroots movement known as "Occupy Wall Street," an on-going protest in New York City. This effort to confront, critique, and corral the wanton abuse of overbearing and irresponsible financial power is being mimicked in a number of other cities around the country, including New Orleans. Seems to me that if there is any one thing this community needs to keep occupied, especially in these woeful economic times, it is Avondale Shipyard.
Admittedly, the "Occupy" movement has been assailed quite justly by some for lacking direction and well articulated purpose, and for being encumbered by not a few crackpots. But the SOS movement is just the opposite. Its goal is to maintain a shipbuilding operation at the Avondale facility, after the current operator, Northrup-Grumman, pulls out. This could preserve as many as 5,000 direct, well-paying union jobs, and 4,000 more jobs in the community, consequent to the economic boost from keeping the place open. The SOS undertaking is being carried out by a coalition of labor organizations, small business owners, the NAACP, the local Catholic Archdiocese, and various other Churches. It also has the full support of local, state, and federal elected officials from across the multi-parish Metro Area.
What is more, the SOS has the support of Mr. Percy Pyne, a founding partner of American Feeder Lines. Mr. Pyne was in town Saturday morning and participated in the rally. He was a featured speaker. His presentation focused on the strategic importance to the nation of maintaining a domestic shipbuilding capacity. He pointed to the fact that, at present, every export leaving our shores and every import coming in is carried on foreign bottoms. His company is interested in operating Avondale and building American Feeder Ships with union labor, as well as sailing them in full compliance with the Jones Act requirement of American crews. Clicking on the highlighted link below will play a video of Mr. Pyne explaining more of the relevant particulars about his company. And a Goggle search of American Feeder Lines produces more detailed information.
A final interesting matter of some note on this subject is the "coincidence" of a story which appeared the day after the rally in the Sunday morning Money Section of the Times-Picayune. It was about a competing company in the feeder line shipping business, CMA CGM, and their dealings with local Port officials. Very interesting. By the way, feeder lines operate somewhat smaller vessels than the mammoth container ships, which today draw far too much water to birth here in New Orleans or at most other U.S. Ports. They are in the business of moving container cargo from intermediate drops in the Caribbean Islands or Mexico and Central America up to the U.S. Ports of the Gulf and East Coasts. The expectation is that, with the 2014 planned opening of the muti-billion dollar expanded Panama Canal, the behemoth ships will be dropping staggeringly greater loads in nearby offshore holding ports, to be moved up by the feeders. This means a huge increase in overall business and a steady demand for new ships. The difference, from what I can see, between American Feeder Lines and CMA CGM is that the former wants to build American ships right here at Avondale, and the other guy is all foreign flagged, built, and crewed.
So, with all due respect to the "brain-trust" of the local Occupy movement, might I suggest you take a look at combining your efforts with the SOS project, and help us all hold on to Avondale. If you're looking for something serious and productive to sink your teeth into, guys, this is it. Otherwise, you are likely to wind up being manipulated into strange, kooky, libertarian/right-wing reactionary nonsense like anti-Federal Reserve agit-prop, and forever lose or lack all crediblity.