Ports & Terminals

Outgoing, Incoming IRPT Presidents Talk River Issues

This week at the Inland Rivers, Ports & Terminals (IRPT) conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, Anthony Hauer, port director of the Port of Natchez, Miss., will hand over his reins as president to Cindy Cutrera, the manager of economic development at the Port of Morgan City, La.

Hauer, who has been a member of IRPT since 2004, has worked with the Port of Natchez in some capacity for more than 30 years. In addition to his role as president of IRPT, he has served as a first vice president—a role Cutrera has also held within the organization.

The Port of Natchez, located at Mile 361.5 on the Mississippi River, is a multi-modal port complex, with access to rail, highway and river terminals. The port has two cargo docks, one liquid transfer dock and one roll-on/roll-off site. It specializes in handling unitized, palletized, containerized, dry bulk, liquid, baled, heavy lifts and ro/ro cargoes.

As for the Port of Morgan City’s terminal facility, it is located at Mile 95 on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. It has 1,200 feet of waterfront to accommodate large vessels, a 20,000-square-foot warehouse, cargo storage, rail connections and highway access.

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In this interview, Hauer and Cutrera echoed similar sentiments on how they hope they can help the industry in their current roles, address the need for improved infrastructure funding, and how they balance their roles with their jobs at their respective inland river ports.

The Waterways Journal: In your opinion, what are some of the current biggest challenges faced by ports and terminals on our inland rivers?

Anthony Hauer: For one, water can be an issue. We need substantial, stable water stages on our navigation channels. Other concerns are maintenance and the operation of our locks and dams. Of course, the issue of funding for the continuation of infrastructure that the government has implemented is an ongoing issue.

Cindy Cutrera: I think our biggest challenge is the need for funding to improve our failing locks and dams and to dredge waterways to their authorized width and depth.

We are one system, and if the entire system is not working properly, then we are missing out on many economic opportunities. Another issue we face is that the true value of our waterways is still not recognized nationwide. We still need to create awareness.

WJ: Taking your roles with IRPT and your respective ports into consideration, what are some proposed solutions to these issues?

Hauer: They are simple, but they are serious. Information, information, information and education. IRPT identifies the problems and then we present them to the board of directors for approval to present these issues to government officials and other people involved with river maintenance.

In some instances, not everyone involved understands the issues. It’s vital that we present the information so that everyone will have a grasp and an idea of what we, as an industry, are talking about when we do talk to them. We humbly request their help.

Cutrera: IRPT travels to Washington, D.C., where we convey this exact message to our delegation, to Corps officials, to the Office of Management and Budget and others. We have done legislative briefings and distributed information.

These challenges aren’t new, but we will continue to communicate the value of the inland river system. Perhaps then, through the input of its membership, IRPT may be able to introduce more innovative concepts to achieve a complete navigable waterway system from East to West and North to South.

WJ: Mr. Hauer, what would you say the organization has accomplished during your term as president and what have you personally learned during your tenure?

Hauer: The membership has grown substantially. We have set up a coalition along the lines of port officials, such as directors, commissioners, etc., and an educational track has been implemented. We have classes available to port officials, where they earn CEUs and certifications. We have also further established relationships with other industry groups.

For example, we have a Memorandum of Understanding with Panama Canal officials. We have agreements with container on barge people, and we’ve actually got the attention of Congress. Not in its entirety, but some in Congress are aware and are looking at river issues with us.

As for what I’ve learned during my tenure, it’s that the more you acknowledge a situation on the inland rivers, the sooner others will comprehend those issues and we can get some help or relief. We aren’t just sitting here—we actually need help from regulatory positions.

WJ: Ms. Cutrera, as the incoming IRPT president, what do you hope to accomplish in your new role?

Cutrera: First, I think this is going to be a smooth transition. I will continue to be there to support any initiative that promotes healthy growth and operation of our inland rivers, ports, terminals and intermodal centers.

Our executive director, Aimee Andres, does a fantastic job of keeping track of legislation, Federal Register notices, WRDA updates and current issues that could affect the inland river system. She is an asset to the organization as she effectively promotes our inland river system. So, first and foremost, I plan to continue to support Aimee as we work with IRPT membership and board members.

WJ: To add to that, Ms. Cutrera, how will you balance your role within IRPT with your work at the Port of Morgan City?

Cutrera: Serving on the IRPT board in various capacities over the past several years, I have learned that we are all affected by different issues depending on our locations and our circumstances, and I have paid careful attention to make decisions that are best for all.

I do bring in to the conversation issues that we face at the Port of Morgan City, and while we are all different, some of the problems we have experienced, such as inadequate funding and tonnage reporting, have been common issues throughout the inland river system.

WJ: Mr. Hauer, now that you are no longer going to be president of IRPT, will your time be spent differently?

Hauer: I’m moving into the role of chairman of the board after [this] week. But to be honest, over the last 20 years, my activity level hasn’t changed much. I’m always as busy as a bee. Of course, I’ve taken on yet another line of service. Back in 2015, I was called to ministry. So, I don’t have a lot of extra, extra time. I’ll just do whatever I need to do, wherever I’m called to do it.

If there is a demand, I’ve always been available. The thing with myself, my personality, is that throughout my youth, the educational facets of life never quit coming. I was taught to do a lot of things; because of this, I still get to do a lot of things.

With quality, everyone loves quality, and everyone loves a situation where you call someone and they tell you that they’ll be there, so you don’t have to worry about it. A man’s word is his honor and his bond, and for the most part, that has kept me going all the time. Mostly because someone calls me all the time.

Also, as for the river, I’ve always been connected to it in some capacity. I grew up by the river. My grandfather, C.W. Hauer, worked for the Corps a long time ago. There’s a benchmark on the river system in his name. My father also worked along the river, tending the river lights back in the day when they consumed kerosene.

Every day of my life I saw this river, and that was my humble introduction to this world. The river runs through my veins. I have been with this port since I was 20 or 21 years old. Every day that I have been here has been a better day than the one before.