Barkerding Honored By Nola Propeller Club

Rusty Barkerding honored by New Orleans Propeller Club
Sean Duffy of the Big River Coalition presents Rusty Barkerding with the Maritime Person of the Year Award. (Photo by Frank McCormack)

Robert R. “Rusty” Barkerding Jr. put an exclamation point on the past year January 11 when he received the Propeller Club of the U.S. Port of New Orleans’ 2017 Maritime Person of the Year award. The honor, presented at the Propeller Club’s 84th annual Maritime Person of the Year Gala, capped off a busy year for Barkerding, during which he was elected chairman of the board of commissioners of the Port of New Orleans and received the World Trade Center of New Orleans’ C. Alvin Bertel Award for his contributions to Louisiana’s port community.

The event, held at the New Orleans Marriott Convention Center Hotel, opened with a lively cocktail reception, accompanied by a traditional jazz ensemble, followed by dinner in the hotel’s Blaine Kern Ballroom. Propeller Club President Bill Baraldi emceed the event.

Barkerding, who has served more than 50 years in the maritime industry, started out as a vessel operations officer and later coordinated cargo operations and vessel movements in ports around the country. In his career, he has served in executive positions overseeing vessel operations for ports in the Gulf region and in the New York/New Jersey area. Barkerding now leads New Orleans-based Admiral Security Services, which offers port and vessel security on the Lower Mississippi River and along the Gulf of Mexico. Besides his work in the maritime industry, Barkerding is also a veteran of the U.S. Navy and a former active duty and reserve member of the New Orleans Police Department.

Port of New Orleans President and CEO Brandy Christian introduced Barkerding to the crowd gathered for the gala. Christian, who just celebrated the completion of her first year at the helm of the Port of New Orleans, recalled her first interactions with Barkerding when she first interviewed with the port several years ago.

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Christian said she remembers Barkerding’s serious demeanor when she was interviewing to become the port’s chief operating officer.

“There was this guy, Barkerding, in the interview,” Christian said. “And we all know the very serious look that Rusty always has on his face. … I thought I did good, but that Barkerding guy didn’t even give me a smile.”

And yet, when Christian sent each board member a thank-you note following her interview, she said she remembers receiving an incredible reply from Barkerding.

“It was the kindest note, and that really helped make the decision for me about moving across the country,” Christian said.

Christian highlighted three of Barkerding’s passions: his family, Louisiana State University and the Port of New Orleans.

“I am so fortunate to have the support of someone like Rusty as chairman, because he’s just as bullish about the Port of New Orleans and being aggressive and being bold,” Christian said. “I always have to thank him for having my back and the back of the Port of New Orleans. And it means so much more because he knows every aspect of the shipping industry, from booking the cargo to shipping the cargo and securing the cargo.”

And yet, while the gala celebrated Barkerding and his career, he focused the crowd’s attention on the past “36 Months” at the Port of New Orleans.

“In the last three years, the Port of New Orleans has been on a fast, aggressive track designed for one purpose—increasing international trade,” Barkerding said, “and, in turn, job growth and economic vitality in the Greater New Orleans area and throughout its jurisdiction.”

Public Belt Railroad

Barkerding said 2017 was a defining year for the Port of New Orleans, made so principally by reaching an agreement with the City of New Orleans to purchase the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad. The agreement ended years of uncertainty within the New Orleans shipping community about the future of the railroad.

For the summer, fall and early winter, port and city officials ironed out details for the acquisition, with the port transferring ownership of two riverfront wharves in exchange for ownership of the railroad.

Barkerding said the port’s efforts to take ownership of the railroad reached a major milestone the same day as the Propeller Club gala.

“Just a few short hours ago today, we appeared before the New Orleans City Council and by unanimous vote put a very pretty bow on a package [to acquire the railroad],” Barkerding said. “Effective February 1, we will be operating the Public Belt Railroad.”

Barkerding said the port is committed to developing a “seamless logistics gateway,” by making strategic infrastructure investments while recognizing the Public Belt’s place in the New Orleans community.

“The bottom line: The port will work to improve and grow this railroad while recognizing both its urban location and our nearby neighbors,” Barkerding said.

Barkerding also highlighted the port’s direct container service to Asia, which was established in 2017.

“So those of you worried about your Mardi Gras beads and trinkets coming in on time—they’re coming in direct from Asia on time and without delay,” Barkerding said.

He also mentioned a direct service to Brazil, the port’s expanding container-on-barge service, and the port’s passenger cruise business, which has again surpassed the 1 million passenger mark.

Turning toward 2018, Barkerding said the Port of New Orleans is poised for another momentous year. He said the port will soon announce its new master plan. He offered a brief glimpse into that plan, which will include investments in the port’s container terminal and public-private partnerships.

“This kind of tremendous momentum and achievement does not happen by accident or by doing business at the port the way it has always been done,” Barkerding said. “No, this kind of performance comes from strong leadership, vision and teamwork, and I must acknowledge Brandy Christian’s exceptional leadership over the past three years.”

Looking to the future of the Port of New Orleans under Christian’s leadership, Barkerding added, “As I mentioned, stay tuned for more.”

Following Barkerding’s message to the crowd, Sean Duffy, executive director of the Big River Coalition and chairman of the Propeller Club’s gala, presented Barkerding with the Maritime Person of the Year award.