Two Weeks as Port Professionals

Two students of the United States Merchant Marines Academy spent summer break learning the ropes at the Port of South Louisiana

Noah Kunce and Nathan Mars – a defensive end and offensive lineman, respectively, on the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy varsity football team – joined another winning team for two weeks this summer: the administrative staff of the Port of South Louisiana.

Kunce and Mars were extended an invitation by Ted Knight, the Port’s Senior Advisor for Commercial Operations and a fellow Merchant Marine Academy football alum, to serve as interns in the River Parishes during their three-and-a-half week summer break.

While their stay at the Port was brief, both college students were exposed to multiple facets of the day-to-day operations of the largest tonnage port in the Western Hemisphere.   

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“We got thrown into the mix right away, observing the executive staff at the Port and seeing how this massive operation gets managed at multiple levels” says Kunce, a Marine Engineering and Shipyard Management major. “The decisions made on a daily basis have ramifications that extend far beyond the area, so it was interesting to see those inner workings up close.”

Throughout the internship, Kunce and Mars sat in on various executive meetings, including matters of logistics, the Port’s 10-year Master Plan, government agencies like the Department of Agriculture, and potential new domestic and international industries seeking to relocate or expand operations on the Mississippi River.  

Intern Nathan Mars, Quezaire, Intern Noah Kunce
Intern Mas, Quezaire, Intern Kunce

The internship also opened both students’ eyes to the “shore side” aspect of the maritime industry. While the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy has a long and storied tradition of educating leaders who go on to serve the national security, marine transportation and economic needs of the country, the major of Kunce’s and Mars’ hands-on training has been ‘underway’ on ships. 

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“A lot of what we do at school, at least for our sailing periods, is more operational as a cadet,” Mars says. “This experience was both interesting and beneficial because we got a glimpse into an aspect of the maritime industry—the administrative side—that a lot of people go into later in their careers.”

Although the internship was somewhat abbreviated because of the Merchant Marine Academy’s semester schedule, both Kunce and Mars were in south Louisiana long enough to gain a full perspective of the Port’s total impact, be it near or far. Within this 54-mile stretch of river, tens of thousands of local residents are employed in high-paying careers. On a state level, the Port of South Louisiana provides billions in direct and indirect economic impact and generates hundreds of millions in state tax revenue. And globally, the Port of South Louisiana handles more than $69 billions in trade on an annual basis and remains a vital and strategic passageway for the world’s food and energy supply chain.   

2022 07 15 Intern Mars Knight Matthews Intern Kunce Img 0297a
Intern Mars, Knight, Matthews, Intern Kunce

“Going in, I just wanted to absorb all that I could in this two-week ‘crash course’, if you will,” Kunce says. “To see if this is something I wanted to consider as a future. Being involved in it first-hand, you’re drawn to this worldwide point of view or scale. At a Port of this size, what happens affects the lives of people locally, obviously. But what you do, and the decisions you make, also affect national and global economic development.

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“So the magnitude of it all, and the far-reaching impact of the Port, really becomes clear to you once you’re able to witness the choices that have to be made each day here.”

Port of South Louisiana CEO Paul Matthews says both interns serve as a testament to the strength of the next-gen maritime workforce and that, just as Kunce and Mars were impacted by their time observing and learning, the Port saw just as much benefit from the experience.

“It was a pleasure to welcome these two men of the grey and blue to the Port of South Louisiana,” Matthews says. “Noah and Nathan were quick learners and I know these two young men will take what they learned along the Mississippi River and have outstanding careers as Merchant Marine Academy graduates.”  

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