Gulfport shipyard’s fate like Avondale’s

Huntington Ingalls Industries will close its Gulfport, Miss., composites facility by May — with the company having previously targeted its Avondale shipyard near New Orleans for a shutdown.

The Newport News, Va.-based company will lay off as many as 315 of its 427 employees at the Gulfport facility.

At least 100 employees will transfer to the main Ingalls Shipbuilding yard in Pascagoula, Miss., Huntington Ingalls spokeswoman Jerri Fuller Dickseski said. She said workers who are being laid off will be offered opportunities there.

“We’re initiating what we call a pathway to Pascagoula,” she said.

Some workers from Avondale already have transferred to Pascagoula, Dickseski said.

The company has been trying to reposition the Avondale facility to do commercial work in energy industries, but says it will close Avondale when Navy work runs out if it can’t procure commercial contracts.

The Avondale shipyard peaked at more than 1,500 employees.

The company has 9,900 workers in Pascagoula, and spokeswoman Beci Brenton said the company is “aggressively hiring” there to handle an increasing workload.

She said workers would be retrained to build traditional steel ships at the yard 30 miles to the east, and offered direct transfers.

Huntington Ingalls said the Gulfport shutdown is necessary because of a reduction in work for the Navy’s Zumwalt-class destroyers.

Huntington Ingalls said it would cost $59 million to close the shipyard, with most of that being a noncash write-off of the value of the Gulfport assets. The company said it expects the write-off to be incurred over the next 18 months and to cut third-quarter profit by $15 million to $20 million. No profit reductions are expected after that.

Dickseki said Huntington Ingalls owns the Gulfport facility and hasn’t decided what to do with it.

It opened in 1989 and was rebuilt after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina using tens of millions of dollars from the Navy.