WASHINGTON Jan 10 Huntington Ingalls Industries
Inc on Thursday said it will decide this year about
converting its Avondale, Louisiana, shipyard to work on
commercial construction and engineering projects instead of
closing the facility by the end of 2013.
Mike Petters, chief executive of the U.S. shipbuilder, said
the company was in ongoing discussions with other firms about
converting the facility to work on energy and infrastructure
projects in the Southeast region, but gave few details.
Northrop Grumman Corp announced plans to close the
268-acre shipyard outside New Orleans in 2010, later deciding to
spin off its entire shipbuilding business into Huntington
Petters first disclosed plans to look at converting the
shipyard to work on offshore oil platforms or work on modular
construction for oil and gas refineries at an investor
conference in November.
On Thursday, he told reporters the company saw some
opportunities to apply what it had learned about deriving
efficiencies and cost savings from modular construction to the
energy sector, but those discussions were still at an early
stage and "the aperture is very wide open."
"There's a lot of opportunities for those plants to be
modularly constructed and we have a pretty good sense of how to
do that both from an engineering standpoint and a construction
standpoint," Petters said.
He acknowledged that Navy shipbuilders had struggled in the
past when they moved away from their core business, but saw this
as slightly different since the company had already decided to
close the facility and other companies were actively seeking out
Huntington Ingalls' participation.
"Our plan is to close this facility so if we're able to do
anything else, we're going to make something out of nothing," he
said, adding, "I'm under no illusions here about the challenges
that something like this would present."
Petters said the company was more likely to proceed if it
found a strategic partner for the new business direction, which
would reduce the risks involved.
He said there were still about 2,000 workers at the Avondale
shipyard but it was unclear how many of them would be kept on if
the company decided to keep the plant open.
"There's clearly a clock ticking because the most valuable
asset we have at Avondale is the workforce that's there," he
said. "We are working this very hard ... This is something that
we will be resolving this year."
Huntington Ingalls shares rose 27 cents or almost 1 percent
to $43.47 in late trading on the New York Stock Exchange.