The ship yard of Avondale Industries is located in Avondale, Louisiana, about 15 miles south of New Orleans. The company was started in 1938, and they built barges and tug boats. They started building small cargo ships during World War II as part of the war effort. They’ve continued building ships to the present day.
The company has been innovative and was one of the first in the United States to use modular building systems, which were commonly used by the Japanese. It has delivered more than 27 destroyers to the US Navy. One of the most recent large-scale projects has been the construction of two crude-oil carriers.
Ship building has a gloried past with Avondale Industries, which has benefited the nation and the local economy. However, as with a number of ship yard facilities, asbestos was commonly used. Asbestos is a popular construction element because of its heat and fire resistant qualities. However, asbestos exposure can have rather severe health ramifications.
Those that have been in contact with asbestos through working in a ship yard or through personal contact with someone who works around the material should be examined. Asbestos fibers are invisible to the naked eye and can go undetected on hair, skin and clothes and so can be easily transported. Greater safety precautions exist now than were in place during the early use of the material. Those currently working with asbestos should ensure that they adhere to all safety rules.
As with many ship yards, fortune has flowed and ebbed since World War II. Most of them have changed hands at least a few times and Avondale Industries is no exception. From its 1938 founding by three partners, the company was sold to Ogden Corporation in 1959. It was sold again in 1985 and 1999, and it was during this time that the company’s workers were finally unionized. The company was last acquired by Northrop Grumman in 2001.
Northrop Grumman announced that it plans to close the Avondale ship yard after its upcoming delivery of the Navy’s USS Somerset (LPD-25), a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, named after Somerset, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 of September 11 went down. The company plans to work with federal, state and local officials and others to explore alternate uses for Avondale as the last two ships under construction reach completion. It is hoped that this venerable ship yard can be kept to constructive use.