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New Orleans Ministry Organization Honors Pair Of Maritime Leaders During Annual Gala

Global Maritime Ministries, a New Orleans, La.-based organization that serves seafarers and inland mariners who live or sojourn in Southeast Louisiana, hosted its second annual Lighthouse Gala March 9 at the Audubon Tea Room in Uptown New Orleans.

The gala serves as both a fundraiser for Global Maritime Ministries (GMM) and as an award ceremony where leaders are honored for their contributions to the maritime community. At this year’s gala, Dwayne M. Boudreaux, a longtime leader with the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast district of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), received the John P. Vandercook Service Award, which recognizes humanitarian work with seafarers. Sean Duffy, executive director of the Big River Coalition and executive vice president of the Louisiana Maritime Association, received the Crystal Lighthouse Award, which honors an individual’s leadership in the maritime industry.

With more than 30 years working in the maritime industry, Boudreaux is a past president of the International Longshoremen’s Association’s Maintenance and Repair Local 2036 and currently serves as vice president for ILA’s South Atlantic and Gulf Coast district. Boudreaux is also a coordinator for the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), which represents some 700 unions worldwide. Michael Colomb, an attorney with the Baton Rouge, La.-based Dodson & Hooks law firm and the inaugural recipient of the John P. Vandercook Service Award, explained that, when seafarers from around the world arrive at the Port of New Orleans on a ship and experience a hardship, Boudreaux advocates on their behalf.

“When they have problems—if they’re injured or have not been paid or have personal problems or family problems or documentation problems with the Coast Guard or Customs—those seafarers have someone in this port they can reach out to,” Colomb said. “And that person is Dwayne Boudreaux.”

Boudreaux first thanked Global Maritime Executive Director Philip Vandercook, the son of founder John P. Vandercook, and the staff for leading the organization. Boudreaux, who first began volunteering with Global Maritime when John P. Vandercook still led the organization, is a past member of the GMM board of directors. Boudreaux also thanked ILA and ITF.

A native of St. Bernard Parish, La., Boudreaux took the opportunity to voice support for development of a new container terminal in that community. Currently, the Port of New Orleans is studying a second container terminal which would be located in Meraux, La., in St. Bernard.

“Getting this land down below the bridge is really going to help us,” Boudreaux said.

Michelle Ganon, vice president of public affairs with the Port of New Orleans, then introduced Duffy to the crowd. Ganon said, from Duffy’s time as a teenager working on the docks of the Port of New Orleans to his current role with the Big River Coalition and the Louisiana Maritime Association, he’s always answered “yes” when the river has called. Ganon particularly thanked Duffy for helping her learn about the river when she came to the Port of New Orleans in the summer of 2016. Duffy has been an outspoken advocate for the plan to deepen the Mississippi River to 50 feet and the overhaul importance of dredging the ship channel.

“We all benefit from the range of skill you have,” Ganon said.

Duffy showered thanks and appreciation on his son and his wife, who were both in the audience. Duffy also thanked Capt. Ron Branch, president of the Louisiana Maritime Association, the presidents of the three Mississippi River pilots associations, and Col. Michael Clancy, commander of the New Orleans Engineer District, all guests at the gala.

In accepting the Crystal Lighthouse award, Duffy did what he often does, advocating for the importance of the Mississippi River and the need to properly fund the agencies charged with maintaining it.

“The Mississippi River is the nation’s greatest natural resource,” Duffy said. “And it takes a lot of people and a lot of effort to keep it afloat. We have a lot of challenges, but I will tell you throughout the Louisiana Maritime Association, the pilots associations and the Big River Coalition, we have the utmost respect for our government partners.”

Duffy said, with his father working long hours in the maritime industry, he himself never planned to work on the river. And yet, advocating for the river has become a passionate pursuit of his life.

“As a passionate person, I needed a cause, and I was happy to pick up the Mississippi River,” Duffy said.

John P. Vandercook, the namesake of Global Maritime’s service award and founder of the organization, began working with international seafarers at the Port of New Orleans in 1962. His work grew into a nonprofit organization in 1965 called the “New Orleans Baptist Seamen’s Service.” For more than a decade, the ministry was based in Vandercook’s home, before relocating to a former church building in eastern Orleans Parish in 1976. By the 1990s, the organization was renamed Global Maritime Ministries and expanded to include the Port of South Louisiana, with a second center in Reserve. Then in the mid-2000s, GMM began construction of a new base of operations on Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans, near the Port of New Orleans’ Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal. That facility opened in 2007.

The organization provides transportation for seafarers to and from the ports of New Orleans and South Louisiana, allowing for greater access to phones, internet service, sending and receiving mail, and shopping for personal supplies while in port. Global Maritime volunteers also provide chaplaincy, counseling and advocacy services for port employees, inland mariners and international seafarers.

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