Pilots Launch Diversity, Inclusion Initiative

The Crescent River Port Pilots’ Association (Crescent) and the New Orleans-Baton Rouge Steamship Pilots Association (NOBRA), the two associations charged with piloting ships on the Lower Mississippi River between Head of Passes and Baton Rouge, La., have launched an initiative called Open Waters Louisiana “to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the maritime industry.”

So far this year, Open Waters Louisiana has partnered with the maritime industry, including Jackson Offshore Operators, Edison Chouest Offshore, Port Ship Service, Cooper/T. Smith Mooring, Louisiana CAT, Laborde Products and Central Boat Rentals, to reach Louisiana junior high and high school students through educational roadshows, stakeholder partnerships and internships.

Through the roadshows alone, Crescent and NOBRA pilots have spoken to close to 1,300 students from McKinley High School in Baton Rouge, Neville and Woodlawn high schools in Shreveport, Franklin Junior High in Franklin and the New Orleans Military & Maritime Academy in Algiers. In the roadshows, students have had the chance to learn more about Louisiana’s maritime industry and engage in one-on-one conversations with pilots about career paths open to them.

“The statewide roadshow met these young people where they were,” said Michael Bopp, president of the Crescent Pilots. “Their enthusiasm was palpable. They energized us. It is our mission and our honor to increase access to maritime industry job opportunities and promote awareness of the historical, cultural and economic contributions of one of the state’s most iconic and thriving industries.”

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Open Waters has also recently sponsored a field trip to NOLA Navy Week with mentees from Son Of A Saint, a mentoring organization, and established a paid internship program aimed at recruiting inner-city youth. That program includes nine paid internships with partners in the maritime industry, including the NOBRA and Crescent pilots, Cooper/T. Smith and Port Ship Service. The internships will dovetail with the University of Louisiana system, which includes nine Louisiana universities, and Grambling University. The goal of that partnership, according to Open Waters, is to offer maritime degree accreditation and position minority students to pursue careers in the maritime industry.

“In the 2021 legislative session, the river pilots pledged to make African Americans and other under-represented communities aware of the increasing number of career opportunities in the state’s maritime industry,” said NOBRA pilot Lee Jackson, who is also CEO of Jackson Offshore Operators. “One year later, Open Waters has followed through on its promise to meet prospective career aspirants with meaningful opportunities by bringing the maritime industry to classrooms across Louisiana.”

In addition to events and internships, Op-en Waters is enhancing its outreach through its website,