Landrieu presses Navy secretary to help keep shipyard in her battered state

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is pressing Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to help prevent the closure of a major shipyard in her state.

Defense giant Northrop Grumman is planning to close its Avondale shipyard in Southern Louisiana by early 2013, dealing another blow to a state already battered by a slew of disasters.

ADVERTISEMENT
In a letter to Mabus, Landrieu urged the Navy Secretary to treat the situation “with the utmost urgency” and to “commit the full power of his office” in order to prevent the shuttering of Avondale.

“With the Administration’s support, the loss of Avondale as a viable shipyard is entirely preventable,” Landrieu, a Senate appropriator, wrote on Thursday. “I believe, with your guidance, that the administration can work with my office to formulate a plan that will ensure that our manufacturing base is secure, while preventing economic catastrophe for thousands of workers in Louisiana.”

The Avondale yard is one of the largest employers in the region; about 5,000 people work at the yard. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) in a statement this week said the shipyard also supports about 6,500 indirect jobs in the New Orleans region, making the impact of the closure even more dramatic.

The loss of the more than 11,000 positions amounts to about $660 million in labor income and almost $2 billion in economic output that helps fuel the Gulf Coast economy, Landrieu wrote to Mabus.

Landrieu warned Mabus that if the Avondale yard is allowed to close, the “integrity of our maritime manufacturing will be in jeopardy.”

“If the Navy allows Avondale to close, the U.S. will have only one major along the Gulf Coast: Northrop Grumman’s yard in Pascagoula.”

In her letter, Landrieu, a Senate appropriator, suggested that the Navy keeps Avondale open to build double-hulledNavy tankers to replace the nation’s outdated fleet oilers. Under International Maritime Organization rules, tankers need to have double hulls. The Navy’s oilers currently have a single hull and operate under a waiver.

“The 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan would not remedy this problem until 2017. That is too long to wait,” Landrieu wrote. "The recent oil spill in the Gulf highlights the damage that can occur from oil pollution. The United States Navy should be leading the world, not bringing up the rear when it comes to the safety and environmental integrity of our Navy fleet.”

Northrop Grumman announced late Tuesday that it would close its Avondale shipyard in early 2013 after it completes work on two Navy LPD-17 amphibious assault ships. The company will transfer the work on the remaining LPD-17 ships to its yard in Pascagoula, Miss. Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush on Wednesday announced that the company will also shutter smaller yards at Tallulah and Waggaman.


Bush said the decision to close the Louisiana yards was made with the goals of improving efficiency and addressing the problem of excess shipbuilding capacity.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus considers Northrop’s decision to be “an internal business decision,” Capt. Beci Brenton, Mabus’s spokeswoman, said on Wednesday.

“The secretary has always been, and will continue to be, open to meet with all members of Congress. He has spoken to members of the Louisiana delegation as well as Gov. Jindal about Avondale in the past,” she said.

Bush, Northrop’s CEO, said that the company is committed to spending the next couple of years working with state officials to find alternative uses for Avondale.