Massive oil-chemical barge launched

Photographs by Alice McCormick.

Amid hoopla and a 20-piece bagpipe band, Gunderson Marine launched a mammoth oil and chemical tank barge into Portland’s Willamette River on Saturday, May 30.  Approximately 4,000 people attended the ceremony to witness a just-completed 578-foot-long container vessel dramatically lowered in 10 seconds by strategically collapsing multitudinous blocks of wood.

Performing was the Clan Macleay Band, a troupe of 20 pipers and drummers from southern Washington and Oregon formed shortly after World War I.
Performing was the Clan Macleay Band, a troupe of 20 pipers and drummers from southern Washington and Oregon formed shortly after World War I.

Speeches and bagpipes fill the air

Named Kirby 185-01, the ship is capable of holding 185,000 barrels, or 7.77 million gallons.  The launching ceremony of Gunderson Marine’s gargantuan floating achievement was bolstered by a work force that grew from 400 people one year ago to a rock-solid cadre of 1,400 today.

The mammoth barge dwarfs a cameraman and tugboat below.
The mammoth barge dwarfs a cameraman and tugboat below.

A challenge from our planet

The effect on the company’s new hires illustrates the single biggest challenge facing environmentalists concerned about global warming: How to keep an energetic, blue-collar work force gainfully employed.

We face increased polarization between concerned activists and hard-working families who face looming unemployment whenever progress can no longer be sustained.  Where are the bountiful jobs that need to be created on the same large scale that the oil and chemical world offers?  Why isn’t there an imaginative investment in manpower being made to save the planet?

The barge descends into the Willamette River.
The barge descends into the Willamette River.
After its descent, the Kirby 185-01 floats toward the middle of the River, where tugboats guide it and a smaller boat wraps a boom to gather up the wood that fell into the River.
After its descent, the Kirby 185-01 floats toward the middle of the River, where tugboats guide it.  A smaller boat wraps a boom around wood that fell into the River during the launch.

We hear that Pembina Pipeline Corporation hasn’t dropped its zeal to manufacture a propane terminal in the Port of Portland.  Wooing Pembina would be a horrible mistake and turn this area – that currently enjoys a “green” reputation nationally – into an ecological nightmare.  We can’t relinquish our defense of natural resources to those who would exploit and neglect them.

But neither can we be simpleminded.  These days, it’s not enough to simply oppose further industrialization.  The same minds that fomented vast technological advances in the exploration of outer space during the 1960s need to channel the same loyalty Alice and I witnessed in Portland’s industrial corridor.

Scott Chill (holding baby) works at Gunderson and played host for our entourage.
Scott Chill (holding baby) works at Gunderson and played host for our entourage.

Creating employment out of planetary progress must be Priority #1 for politicians.  Otherwise, we will continue witnessing the ugly game of musical chairs being played when well-paying jobs are eliminated from families who continue to scrimp and save to survive.

One thought on “Massive oil-chemical barge launched”

  1. Where can the answer lie in those jobs that will be lost? Does the answer lie with government or elsewhere?

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