On The Move

Industry People On The Move—March 2024


Joe Rella has been named president of St. Johns Shipbuilding, Palatka, Fla. Rella, who received his undergraduate degree in marine engineering from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, in Kings Point, N.Y., and an MBA from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., brings more than four decades of commercial and U.S. Navy maritime experience to the new position.

Capt. Henry Peterson, a pilot on the Lower Mississippi River and a member of the board of directors of the Associated Branch Pilots (also known as the Bar Pilots) has been elected as an at-large board member on the Mississippi Valley Trade & Transport Council (MVTTC). Peterson is part of a long family tradition of piloting ships through Southwest Pass. His grandfather, Capt. George J. Peterson II, worked as a bar pilot on the Mississippi River for 63 years.

Sean Duffy, executive director of the Big River Coalition and vice president of the Louisiana Maritime Association, which represents the various river pilot groups on the Lower Mississippi River, was recently named chairman of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Hydrographic Services Review Panel federal advisory committee (HSRP). Duffy has been a member of HSRP since 2019 and served as vice chair of the panel the past two years. In his role with Big River Coalition, which he has held since 2011, Duffy has been a vocal advocate for deepening the Mississippi River Ship Channel to 50 feet, while also using dredged material beneficially along the final stretch of the river, known as the Birdfoot Delta.


Amer Kalla has been appointed director of production design for TAI Engineers LLC, New Orleans. Based in Houston, Kalla will leverage his extensive experience to develop further and evolve TAI’s production design capabilities for the maritime sector. Kalla has more than a decade of experience specializing in shipbuilding.

Before joining TAI, Kalla served as a senior engineering program manager at electric car manufacturer Tesla, where he led the full design and engineering of the Tesla Gigafactory from concept to production launch. Kalla also served as the manager of detail design at Vancouver Shipyards Ltd., where he insourced the design effort and directed multidisciplinary teams to create 3D models and manufacturing packages. He successfully delivered large ship designs for the Canadian Coast Guard and Navy under the National Shipbuilding Strategy valued at more than $6 billion. Under his leadership, the yard introduced initiatives such as just-in-time manufacturing and next-gen production information. Project deliveries included its offshore fisheries science vessels, oceanographic science vessels and joint support ships.

Cindy Bertolami has been appointed chief financial officer of the Port of Corpus Christi. She succeeds Kent Britton, who was appointed CEO in September.

Previously, Bertolami served four years as director of finance for the Port of Corpus Christi. She has more than 20 years of experience in financial leadership roles and has served as interim CFO since September.

As CFO, Bertolami will oversee the port’s real estate, information technology, finance, accounting, procurement and risk management departments.

“Cindy brings a wealth of knowledge to her new role as chief financial officer that will be a strong benefit to the Port of Corpus Christi team and our customers,” Britton said. “I have no doubt she will not only continue this institution’s commitment to financial accountability and transparency but also continue the push to improve our internal processes and systems. We could not be prouder to have Cindy take on this leadership role for our organization.”

Kristin Brier

Kristin Brier has been appointed to the newly created role of vice president of integrated planning and sustainable development for the Ports of Indiana. Brier most recently served as multimodal director at the Indiana Department of Transportation and has worked at INDOT and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for more than 20 years in roles involving freight, multimodal planning, innovation, continuous improvement, grants and environmental programs.

Brier will oversee Ports of Indiana’s engineering, grant development and project delivery staff, while leading initiatives to integrate planning between all departments, increase grant funding and develop sustainable port projects. She will also serve as liaison to state and federal officials for policy matters.

Doug Kowalski

Ports of Indiana also announced three personnel moves to support strategic expansion. The changes included hiring Doug Kowalski as general counsel, promoting Julie Petree as director of project delivery and welcoming back Kasia Kaffenberger to the Mount Vernon port as billing and office coordinator.

Kowalski fills the role vacated by James Hall, who is taking a new position to focus on expanding Ports of Indiana’s Foreign-Trade Zone business. Kowalski most recently served as an attorney with the Indianapolis law firm of Kroger, Gardis & Regas, acting as general counsel for local governments and providing special counsel on litigation, economic development, real estate transactions, public infrastructure financing and bonding issues.

Prior to that, he served as chief of staff and director of legal services for the Indiana State Board of Accounts, risk manager for Indianapolis Public Schools and corporation counsel for the city of Indianapolis.

Julie Petree

Petree joined Ports of Indiana as associate director of project delivery in June 2022 and played a critical role advancing the largest capital projects in Ports of Indiana’s history, including the FASTLANE, Marine Highway and TIGER grant projects. Prior to that, she served as construction manager for 23 years with DLZ Indiana.

Kasia Kaffenberger

Kaffenberger worked at the Mount Vernon port for more than eight years, coordinating billing and office administration duties. Most recently, she served as a property deputy in the Posey County Auditor’s Office. She previously worked at Infinity Molding and Assembly, the Mount Vernon Democrat newspaper and as a medical office assistant.