Final Navy warship leaves Avondale Shipyard - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Final Navy warship leaves Avondale Shipyard

The USS Somerset leaves Avondale leaving workers with mixed emotions. The USS Somerset leaves Avondale leaving workers with mixed emotions.

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - On a less than clear Monday morning, a mammoth vessel came into view. It was a sight that brought some out along the Mississippi riverfront to wave good-bye as the USS Somerset began its journey north.

The ship left Avondale Shipyard, where it was constructed. It is named in honor of the 911 victims aboard United Flight 93, which crashed in Somerset County, Pa. For Avondale workers, witnessing the ship's departure was bittersweet. The Somerset was the last Navy warship that will be built at Avondale. At one time, Avondale had thousands of workers.

"It ain't a great feeling. I mean, it is what it is - I guess we have to make due," said employee Peter Pierre as he walked to his car Monday afternoon.

After a series of steep layoffs in recent years, Avondale's remaining workers had pride mixed with pensiveness as the ship departed.

"It was a good thing. It's over with, you know?" said Clifton Smith. Smith, a scaffolding builder, has worked at Avondale for 34 years. "We've been here a long time. We're just going to wait it out and see what happens."

"Avondale has played an integral part of the economy in Jefferson for decades," said Jerry Bologna, Executive Director of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission, or JEDCO. "It is a sad day, but JEDCO, along with the parish, the State Department of Economic Development, Greater New Orleans Inc. - all of these organizations have been working in concert to identify new prospects to bring work to that yard."

Bill Glenn, a spokesman for Huntington Ingalls Industries, which owns Avondale, issued a statement which said, "We continue to aggressively look for commercial work to redeploy Avondale and its great workforce. That being said, if all else fails, we will have to close the facility."

Smith and other workers hope a way is found to breathe new life into Avondale.

"I hope something comes through, because you have a lot of people around here that need some work," Smith said. "You know, we lost a lot of good employees, and so they just got a few of us left and we hope something happens between now and then."

"The infrastructure there is an extremely important asset," said Bologna. "It's a great infrastructure, and a lot of different types of industries can utilize that."

Glenn said work continues at Avondale on units for the amphibious ships LPD 26 and LPD 27, which are under construction in another state. That work will wrap up in the third quarter of this year.


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