Cohort Reflections

Ahoy Matey!

By Franki D. Williams

Squid boat: Up to 40% of California’s squid can be distributed through the Port of Hueneme on any given year.

After a morning focusing on local government in Thousand Oaks, I drove the back way through the agricultural fields of Camarillo, a part of the city unfamiliar to me, and met the rest of the cohort at the Port of Hueneme. Upon arrival, we were greeted by their Public & Government Relations Specialist, Cam Spencer,  who gave an engaging presentation on the history of the port and its current role and contributions to the community. Hueneme’s meaning is rooted in the Chumash word Wyneme, meaning point halfway or resting place, and has been a place for trade dating back for centuries. The area has uniquely calm waters year-round that can be attributed to the offshore underwater Hueneme canyon, that runs 1,000 ft below the water’s surface.Construction on the port began in the 1870s by Thomas Bard in the form of a wharf. Early in the twentieth century, the port started to evolve as agriculture became more prominent in Ventura County. Once the United States became involved in the second world war the US Navy occupied the port citing eminent domain. To this day the Navy still has a significant presence in the region with three bases, Port Mugu, Port Hueneme, and San Nicolas Island. However, the majority of the port is used for commercial purposes, specifically automobiles and fruit and last year broke its record with 1.6 million tons of cargo coming through its gates.

Cranes: The two mobile cranes at the Port of Hueneme. “Big Blue” on left, “Yellow Hornet” on right. Each is capable of lifting up to 140 tons.

While impressive and an asset to the local economy, it is the port’s commitment to environmental initiatives that impressed me the most. While previously corporations took on a neoclassical economic model where an organizations only responsibility was towards its shareholders it is refreshing to see that corporations are adopting a socioeconomic model with an open dialogue with its community and taking into consideration the welfare of society as a whole.

Two ro-ro (auto carrying) ships at the Port of Hueneme, with the two hard-working Port tugboats (the Lulapin and Simone Brusco) in the foreground, center.

When I first heard the term squid ship my interest was piqued. As a life long lover of all things sea-related, I immediately imagined the mysterious and reclusive Captain Nemo standing stoically out on the docks, his boots squishing across the embarkment as he commanded his crew. While Captain Nemo was absent that day, I was equally in awe of the squid ships routine at the Port of Hueneme after a days catch. Instead of exploring the deep sea for signs of the fabled giant, these squid ships were in charge of bringing in the large cephalopod’s distant cousin, commonly known as calamari, from the sea to restaurants in the most efficient way possible. The process consisted of hooking the ship up to a specialized tube on the dock that sucked the day’s catch from the hull to a giant ice bath on wheels that would then transport the fresh seafood to restaurants and markets. While we did not get to see the process in person, one only need to use their imagination to recreate the process. 

Green bananas: Unripened bananas in the Del Monte warehouse on Port.

Besides Cam’s engaging presentation on the history and impact of the port, the cohort also had the opportunity to have a question and answer session with the President of the Board of the Harbor Commissioner, Mary Ann Rooney. Mary Ann’s philosophy of running the harbor was rooted in diversity and an integrated approach to business, the economy, and the greater community as a whole.  By the day’s end cohort members had a broader understanding of the role our local port plays in the region. Besides providing jobs and injecting money into the local community through employment opportunities and goods, the port was also something that we could proud of as can be seen by it earning the title and subsequently awarded the Greenest Port of the Year award in 2017.

On behalf of Cohort XXIV, I would like to thank the Ventura County Leadership Academy, the Port of Hueneme, Mary Ann Rooney, Cam Spencer, and fellow cohort member Becky Haycox for the well planned, informative, and fun experience!

Photo credit and captions: Becky Haycox

About the Author

Franki D. Williams joined the staff at the Humane Society of Ventura County in October of 2013. As the Media & Marketing Manager, Franki works closely with staff and volunteers to provide the public with all the latest news, animal profiles, and available resources at the HSVC. Franki brings with her over ten years experience working in the nonprofit field focusing on community awareness through media. Franki attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she focused on Media Arts and earned her BA in International Studies with an emphasis on Human Rights from Portland State University.