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Shipbuilder HII Still Riding High - for Now

Apr. 8, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS   |   Comments
At its shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., Huntington Ingalls builds National Security Cutters for the US Coast Guard, including the James (pictured).
At its shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., Huntington Ingalls builds National Security Cutters for the US Coast Guard, including the James (pictured). (Huntington Ingalls)
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NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. — With approximately 12,000 employees along the Gulf coast, Huntington Ingalls shipbuilding’s Ingalls operations are the largest employer in Mississippi and one of the largest employers in Alabama, shipyard President Brian Cuccias said April 8 during a press briefing at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition outside Washington.

“Our plans are to hire 2,500 employees this year,” Cuccias said. Among the company’s workers are 1,500 veterans, he added. “We have a real push to bring veterans into the yard.”

The company’s order book, for the time being, is fairly hefty. At its main shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., the company builds big-deck amphibious assault ships, LPD 17-class amphibious transport docks and DDG 51-class destroyers for the US Navy, and National Security Cutters for the US Coast Guard.

In Virginia, HII’s sister shipyard at Newport News is full up as well, working on nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines. With more than 23,500 employees, Newport News Shipbuilding is the largest industrial employer in Virginia, said Ken Mahler, vice president of Navy programs at the yard.

Military veterans make up about 21 percent of annual hires, Mahler noted, accounting for more than 3,300 employees.

While work is booming, the looming question of whether the Navy will pay to refuel and overhaul the carrier George Washington is a major issue, Mahler said.

Carrier refueling overhauls make up about a third of the work at the shipyard, he said, along with new-construction carriers and submarines.

The GW’s overhaul isn’t scheduled to start until 2016. The Navy is authorized to spend $243 million to allow Newport News to begin planning work, but with the question of refueling or decommissioning the carrier put off for a year, most of the money isn’t being awarded.

“We’ve only been authorized to do the defueling part of the planning,” Mahler said, “because that will happen in any case.” Only monies related to defueling or inactivation can be used as of now, he added.

“There is a potential for workforce effects in the yard,” he said. “We’re working to manage that.” ■


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