August 28, 2012 / 7:40 PM / in 5 years

Huntington Ingalls shuts shipyards as hurricane approaches

WASHINGTON, Aug 28 (Reuters) - U.S. shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc has closed all three of its U.S. Gulf Coast shipyards in Mississippi and Louisiana as the region braces for Hurricane Isaac, a massive storm that is expected to make landfall early Wednesday.

Huntington Ingalls, which was spun off from defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp last year, suffered an estimated $1 billion of losses and damage when Hurricane Katrina devastated the region seven years ago.

The company plans to keep the shipyards closed Wednesday, said spokeswoman Beci Brenton, adding that the company would reassess the situation after the storm passed.

Thousands of people were leaving New Orleans on Tuesday despite the lack of mandatory evacuation orders. Many remain haunted by the memory of Hurricane Katrina, which breached protective levees and flooded 80 percent of the city in 2005, killing 1,800 people and stranding thousands of others without food and water.

Huntington Ingalls has 2,600 employees at its 268-acre Avondale shipyard outside New Orleans, 900 people at its 120-acre shipyard in Gulfport, Mississippi, and about 9,000 workers at its 800-acre Pascagoula, Mississippi facility, Brenton said.

She said workers spent Monday securing loose equipment, boarding up windows, securing and locking heavy cranes and making other storm preparations before all three facilities closed at 2 p.m. Central time.

“We have extensive checklists at all our facilities for bad weather and they’re following those meticulously,” Brenton said.

Small watch teams remained on board all the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships that are already in the water at the Avondale and Pascagoula shipyards, Brenton said.

The company is building two LPD amphibious assault ships at the Avondale shipyard, while 6 ships -- including one destroyer and three amphibious assault ships -- are under construction at the Pascagoula shipyard.

Brenton said many security measures had been implemented since Hurricane Katrina, including putting generators on raised platforms in case of flooding.

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