, Port Arthur, Texas

April 25, 2011

Chappell champions port job

Janet Cline
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — She came to the Port of Port Arthur on what she thought would be “just a temp job,” but Joanie Chappell wound up staying in the dock office, tackling every day what she calls the most interesting job ever.

In that job she and her coworkers handle invoices, manifests, and bills of lading for the ships, trains, and trucks that handle the Port's cargo. She said she also answers the phone and send information about the inbound and outbound vessels and rail shipments to the executive offices of the Port.

For Joanie, who's been at the Port of Port Arthur about five years, it was quite a change, from working mostly with women as a cosmetology student, to dealing with the ship's agents and stevedores, few of whom are female. The working atmosphere is “real laid-back, but everything gets done,” she said.

“I get to meet a lot of people,” the 2001 Nederland High School graduate said. She's talked with agents for ships from all over the world - the Marshall Islands, the Netherlands, the Bahamas, Japan, South America, Ireland, Romania - you name it! “I love seeing all the flags.”

One of the most interesting periods was seeing all the large pieces coming through the Port for the Motiva Enterprises expansion project. “That was fun!” she said. “It was like a large jungle gym coming through every day.”

She also recalled the days after the Gulf oil spill that happened just a year ago. “Security was tightened up a lot right after that, and (for safety's sake) we couldn't work for two days.”

One day recently, the Stuigracht, flying the flag of the Netherlands, was docked outside her second-floor office. Joanie said the ship's crew had already loaded the rolls of paper for transport earlier that day and would soon be leaving for other ports of call.

“The Port handles tons of KLB,” she said, explaining that KLB stands for Kraft liner board, a product of International Paper, which is a big customer of the Port.

Joanie is the daughter of Charly Ramirez and her husband Thomas Ramirez of Nederland. Of her career at the Port, she says, “I guess I was just at the right place at the right time!”