BATON ROUGE, La. — The Avondale shipyard outside New Orleans could close by early 2013 if Northrop Grumman follows through on plans to consolidate some shipbuilding operations in Pascagoula, according to company executives.
Even if the consolidation doesn’t happen, The Times-Picayune reports the shipyard’s 11,500 direct and indirect jobs are in danger of disappearing by 2016 unless state officials can persuade the Navy to change its latest procurement plans.
“This would be a tremendous economic challenge, not only to the greater New Orleans area, but to the entire state of Louisiana,” Gov. Bobby Jindal said yesterday after a meeting with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and Mike Petters, president of Northrop Grumman’s shipbuilding operations.
The governor said he plans to join the state’s congressional delegation in the coming days for a meeting with Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in an effort to keep Avondale open. Mabus is a former Democratic governor of Mississippi.
The immediate issue involves the Navy’s LPD-17 San Antonio-class amphibious assault ships, which cost about $1.7 billion each and are built at Northrop’s shipyards in Avondale and Pascagoula.
With two ships now under construction, the Avondale plant has enough work to keep it busy through 2012. But Northrop executives told the governor they are considering building the final two LPD vessels in Pascagoula. A decision on where the two ships will be built could be announced within days, Jindal said.
The long-term problems come after the LPD-17 program is completed. Under the Navy’s latest shipbuilding plan, unveiled earlier this year, there are no more large contracts in the procurement pipeline that are suitable for Avondale, making it unlikely that Northrop Grumman will have any need for the facility.