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Surfeit of ceremonies; new business challenges port fortitude for formalities

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on July 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
July 30, 2012 2:39 pm

Call it the perils of prosperity.

The Port of Tacoma, the beneficiary with a sudden injection of new business this summer, now faces a challenge to keep up with the ceremonial duties that new business is creating.
Dusseldorf Express
Port of Tacoma Chief Executive John Wolfe and Port Commissioner Don Johnson welcome the containership Dusseldorf Express to Tacoma

That new business is courtesy of the move of a container line consortium from the Port of Seattle to the Port of Tacoma in mid-summer. That shift by the Grand Alliance is bringing a handful of new shipping lines to the port’s Washington United Terminal.

The shift means hundreds of thousands of additional shipping containers transiting the port’s piers and hundreds of new waterfront-related jobs.

But the arrival of new ships to the port is creating ceremonial obligations that the port hasn’t faced before. The containership lines’ move means that some 28 ships that have never called on the Port of Tacoma will make their initial calls on Tacoma in the period July through September.

Maritime tradition calls for those ships to receive a ceremonial greeting from port officials along with a plaque to commemorate the ship’s first call on the port. Those who’ve been aboard cruise ships may have seen these plaques displayed prominently along a corridor leading to ships’ public spaces.

While the port publicly is glad to welcome new business, the sheer number of individual ceremonies is creating a bit of a crisis, some members of the port staff say privately.

Even the most seasoned politician might become fatigued at the prospect of so many welcoming speeches, handshakes and polite presentations.

The port has put out the word among port commissioners, staff members and others for help to handle the load.

The presentations, depending on the ship’s schedule and its captain’s preferences, can last anywhere from 20 or 30 minutes to several hours.

The port presents the captain a plaque engraved with the ship’s name and the date of the first call. The top half of the plaque features an aerial photo of the port.

Dusseldorf Express plaque
The standard plaque

The captain may reciprocate with a tour of the ship and some refreshments ranging from a soda to a full buffet.

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