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Will Lamont's port authority bust a union?

We don't know what to expect at Tuesday's hearing by the Connecticut Port Authority, but they are hinting at public disclosure of details of the plans they have been hatching in secret all year to remake the port of New London.

There is a line in the agenda promising public comment, after the presentation, but will this allow for meaningful public input? How could it if a sweet deal for the foreign wind company is already wrapped in ribbons, ready to be gaveled finally into reality by the rotting remains of the scandal-ridden agency that cooked it all up in the first place?

The plans to rebuild the New London piers into an exclusive offshore wind staging platform, blocking traditional cargo, could be glimpsed in the environmental applications for the project filed in the spring.

But that transition, shipping experts tell me, has already begun, with a handful of ships calling in New London since Gateway Terminal, which operates its own competing port facilities in New Haven, took over New London in May. Some 32 ships called in New London last year, the shipping experts tell me.

That's an unofficial number because the port authority won't say.

A spokesman for Gateway said their numbers indicate 26 ships calling in New London in 2018. Strangely, the Gateway spokesman could only say how many ships called in total since the beginning of 2019, which is 15, but not how many since Gateway took over in May. They don't know?

The number of ship calls at a publicly owned port should be readily available. The Day used to publish it, from a log kept by the Department of Transportation.

It's now just another number hidden in the dark world of the port authority.

The rates for shippers are the same in New London and New Haven, the Gateway spokesman insisted. But of course the profit for Gateway could be higher where they own the facilities.

The bleeding of ships from New London is already taking a toll on union longshoremen here. Worse for them, the ships that are being diverted to New Haven are being unloaded at a non-union port.

The union workers here should be worried indeed, since the plans to close New London to traditional cargo could permanently eliminate their jobs.

The closing of traditional port functions would also displace a fishing fleet, end local delivery of road salt used by towns in the region and destroy port-rail synergy envisioned in a $7 million federal project to remake the rail lines.

It's a puzzle to me why the port authority ever even considered giving control of the New London port to a direct competitor, one with an apparent interest in diverting traffic.

I am especially surprised that Gov. Lamont would pull the rug out from union workers, setting the stage to eliminate a local longshoreman's union. Even if traditional cargo returns some 20 years from now, it wouldn't necessarily have to be a union port any longer.

There is nothing to indicate the 300 jobs in the official estimate for the workforce needed to assemble the foreign-made turbines on tax-free land at New London's pier will be union affiliated.

Doors open for the hearing at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the New London Holiday Inn. Bring popcorn. You might even get a glimpse of port authority critics being led off for questioning by state police.

This is the opinion of David Collins


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