CLOSE ENCOUNTER. "What ugly nose hairs," I thought as I stood face to face with a Broward County, Fla., deputy sheriff in Florida last week.
The sheriff and I were having a spirited disagreement about whether I should proceed to the registration table at the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association's convention.Luckily, a MEBA official arrived on the scene and defused the situation.
But the dispute between the two groups claiming to be the one true MEBA is far from defused.
The fire of the disagreement burned bright in a speech that Jesse Calhoon, former MEBA president gave in support of Gordon Ward and his allies in the ship officers union.
Mr. Calhoon compared the current litigious dispute with the more violent union struggles of his younger days, when fights with competing unions that left blood on the floor broke out in hotel lobbies.
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NO BLOOD has been spilled yet, but the once quiet monthly board meetings of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey are getting more and more raucous.
At the authority's last board meeting, some of the 4,000 or so union members that are working without contracts filled the room and spilled out into the halls.
Stanley Brezenoff, the authority's executive director, was the main target of the unionists' wrath. "Brezenoff must go," they chanted.
Richard C. Leone, authority chairman, said he was sympathetic with the unions' complaints, but there is a limit to what he could do.
"The agency does not exist in a vacuum," he said. Its actions "have to be approved by the states," he added.
This conciliatory talk did not go far with the unions. "Your intention is to bust the unions," asserted John Lynch, leader of a coalition of the authority's unions. "We're going to be here at every single board of commissioners meeting," he promised.
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THE WORST IS YET TO COME for ship traffic restrictions because of dredging work in New York's busiest shipping channel, the Kill van Kull, warned Richard Larrabee, the Coast Guard's captain of the Port of New York.
In a few weeks, blasting will begin at Bergen Point, where ships must negotiate a tight turn, Capt. Larrabee said at the American Waterways Operators annual lunch recently in New York.
For the first time, large ships will be required to have tugs while passing the blasting site. When winds reach 25 knots, "wind-sensitive vessels" like car carriers will be banned from passing through the location.
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WHY NOT BROOKLYN? Michael Gallagher, executive vice president of Brooklyn's New York Shipyard Corp., wants to see cruise ships call at Brooklyn's piers 1 through 5 just south of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Brooklyn piers don't silt up like the ones at the current port authority's Passenger Ship Terminal on the West Side of midtown Manhattan, Mr. Gallagher said.
The silting has been a problem in the past. In 1980, it threatened to scuttle scheduled visits by cruise ships when environmentalists opposed dredging plans.
And besides, the view is better from Brooklyn.