Gulfport Longshoremen Benefiting From Cruise ship

For months now Sundays in Gulfport have meant the arrival of Conquest. For some of the people working at the port the day also brings a chance to earn some extra money. When the Carnival Cruise line needed additional labor to load passengers and cargo, the longshoreman stepped up to the challenge.

Port officials said one of their major business ventures, shipping chicken to Russia, has been hurt by tense relations between the United States and that country. They say the Conquest sailed into Gulfport at just the right time.

James Beavers agrees. He says Carnival cruise line gave longshoremen a financial lift by putting an extra $300 a week into their pockets.

"Having this ship here for the Port is giving all the men something to do, keeping us jobs and everything," said Beavers. "We're working."

Freeman Hines is also a longshoreman. He said "It's been great. A lot of the jobs for the guys who weren't working as much and it's a lot of income coming in for our community."

The day starts early around 5 a.m., then goes on for the next 10 to 12 hours. To get the Conquest ready to sail, sixty longshoreman help stock the ship with supplies and passengers.

"We're unloading luggage, loading luggage, helping the people to their cars and helping them out of the buses," said Dwight Harper.

Since they work on an "as needed" basis the longshoremen say they've enjoyed the steady stream of Sundays on the job, but they admit dealing with the public is not the type of work load they're used to.

Port spokesperson Gary Schruff said "This is not something normally they do but we commend them in the job that they've done here. All the members have participated directly or indirectly has done an excellent job."

"It's a big change, but it's a wonderful change, [but I'm] meeting people from all over," said Harper.

Port officials say the Conquest is scheduled to make its last sail out of Gulfport on July 6th. Some longshoremen said they believe a permanent cruise line would benefit the community.