The New Orleans Board of Trade provides for the maritime industry for more than a century

The history of the New Orleans Board of Trade — one of the oldest, most influential and well-respected economic advocacy groups in the Southeast — dates back to 1880, when a local businessman required a suitable place to sell some pork.

Needless to say, roughly a century-and-a-half later, the organization has come a long way.

Once a brick and mortar building on Magazine Street where commodities were bought and sold, today’s New Orleans Board of Trade is a non-profit flag waver and trumpet sounder for the South Louisiana maritime industry. The non-profit features a diverse membership united by a common interest — for waterborne commerce to run smoothly and thrive along the Gulf Coast.

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Board of Trade members — at last count approximately 175 of them — include entities such as ship agents, port authorities, shipyards, maritime attorneys, terminal operators and others that collectively represent a wide cross-section of the maritime industry. Perhaps the most beneficial perk to being a member (and certainly the most-used perk) are the daily updates the Board of Trade provides that give snapshots of the goings-on on the Mississippi River. These updates are complete with operational guidelines, pilot draft recommendations, direct locations, Corps of Engineers river predictions, Coast Guard notices and a complete listing of the vessels due to arrive and depart within a 24-hour period.

To enhance those benefits (and make the information available at the touch of a finger), the Board of Trade launched its very own phone App this summer.

“Whenever we are notified of a draft change, an accident on the river, or something that needs immediate notification, we send it out and it uses the push-technology. And so, it pops up immediately, and you know something has happened,” said New Orleans Board of Trade Executive Director Brett M. Bourgeois.

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“You know, in many ways, what we provide hasn’t changed all that much, especially from a maritime exchange standpoint, but the way we gather and deliver the information is very different now,” Bourgeois say. “There was a time where we had an employee waiting for ships to come in and talk to the pilots. Then, we didn’t have to wait because we had a direct line to the pilots and the dispatch office. Now, we utilize AIS technology, in conjunction with the data provided by the pilots to keep track of ships in and out of the river, meaning we know where any ship is at any time between the mouth of the river and Baton Rouge.”

In addition to those reports, the Board of Trade also stages several events for its membership each year. This past fall, the Board welcomed the Federal Reserve Bank’s Economic Outlook Panel to speak and prognosticate about what market trends and indicators might mean for the stability and health of maritime commerce. The Board of Trade also acts as an advocacy group on behalf of its members, addressing with a single voice and working with local, state and federal government agencies on important topics like regulation.

“The key is, anything we do, any issue we address or issues we advocate benefit the whole (maritime) community, the entire membership,” Bourgeois said. “Yes, some members are in the same line of business, but it is not difficult at the end of the day to get those owners to see that what we’re doing will benefit them and those around them.”

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By William Kalec

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