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Two recent builds undergoing final touches at VT Halter -- ATB tug Pacific Reliance, the first of ten for Crowley, and the Henry B. Bigelow, the second of a new state-of-the-art fisheries survey vessel built by the yard for NOAA. (Photo: Don Sutherland.) n't know from the traffic. The cars, certainly, are back. "A lot of people have moved to homes in outlying districts," said one state representative, "but they're still coming into the city for their usual purposes." Watching them revel on Bourbon Street, there was no evidence that they were thinking about their relationship to the Port of New Orleans. It's why they were there, very indirectly, or anyway the port is why New Orleans was first built. Theirs is a partnership now, as New Orleans has been designated homeport to NCL cruise ships like the Norwegian Sun, on her maiden arrival on October 15. She tied-up at the new $37-million Erato Street passenger ship terminal, bringing a cargo of tourists that would interact directly with the city's inhabitants. Surprisingly, the port's cargo throughput during the year following Katrina exceeded the year previous. It's a surprise because, besides all the clearing-up and rebuilding required, Maersk Sealand left town for the duration. Three gantry cranes at France Road on the Industrial Canal await demolition, last year's wind having driven one along its track into another, then the two into a third. In September, however, Maersk Expreso, with lines to Central and South America, announced it would return one of its weekly services to New Orleans The permanent loss to the port seems mostly limited to a rail line and its floats to Mexico, for which facilities could not be found on the east side of the river. While the container operations have been ramping back up, the redeeming factor for the Port of New Orleans has been an increase in break bulk shipments, notably steel coming in. Over at New Orleans Cold Storage on the Industrial Canal, we watched the Mulungisi being repainted while awaiting a new load of export chickens. Meantime, the Port Authority would like to build the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal Phase II, which will be upriver from the current terminal. It's approximately 36 acres, and combined with existing facility would yield about 80 acres total. Port representatives describe it as currently in the design and planning stages. While this proceeds, a section of the riverfront is undergoing transformation to parkland as somewhat an amenity to the architecturally handsome uptown New Orleans and lower Garden District neighborhoods. The Port's own campus appears nearby as well. The riverfront site is the former location of the Market Street and Orange Street wharfs, described as antiquated and no longer suitable for today's shipping demands. The Port demolished the warehouses in the spring of '06. Upstream & Down Plenty of things besides property have gone up in price in the Southern maritime business. Shane Guidry, President of CEO of Harvey Gulf International Marine sees high insurance rates as a cause for an exodus of jack-up rigs to distant climes. "The insurance increases for offshore are a hundredpercent," said Guidry. On top of which, the drillers "can get three-year contracts in Trinidad, and one-year contracts here." He estimates the number of such rigs on the patch at something around 80 working on natural gas today, compared to over 100 last year. While it's possible the rigs would return, Guidry wonders, "if you leave and give up part of your market, what's going to make you come back?" Nevertheless, yards equipped to handle the big rigs, which includes Signal in both Houston and Pascagoula, find themselves as busy as anyone. Whether a thousand-year storm or whatever, it was a storm that happened and raised the bar on a few things. There is a new call for 16-point mooring on the semisubmersibles, which Signal was installing on the Noble Clyde Boudreaux at the time of our visit. From the standpoint of business, Signal's management expressed a positive future. Rigs that are coming and going need yards, too. It's said here and there that at $70 per barrel, oil is worth looking for, for those equipped to do it. But the cost of doing it has been driven up by a variety of factors on the Gulf coast -- demand for shipyard space, massive increases in insurance rates, competition for skilled workers, the cost of housing, the need to go outof-region for newbuilds if the local yards continue short of personnel. Along with storm-related issues are other factors yet to be determined, such as the cost of improvements as increasing vessels come under inspection. Newbuilds are investments, profit-making Maritime Reporter & Engineering News Superstructure and hull section together take form for the first of ten OSVs being built at Bollinger's for Rigdon, as she appeared at the Larose yard in mid-October. (Photo: Don Sutherland.) 36