South Mississippi shipyards get a financial boost

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - By Patrice Clark – bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - The U.S. Department of Defense's $21 million recovery grant to help speed up improvements at coast shipyards means millions of dollars for Northrop Grumman and VT Halter Marine.

CEO Bill Skinner and Shipfitter Irvin Lemons can still recall how Hurricane Katrina clobbered VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula.

"The day I walked in here after Katrina was a major disaster and everything was basically underwater," Irvin Lemons said.

In fact, the shipyard sustained $60 million in damages. For five years, Skinner and his shipbuilding team have spent $45 million to build back what Katrina destroyed. Now, an $8.4 million Defense Department grant will help VT Halter continue rebuilding.

"We are just extremely excited about the fact the U.S. Government, and the Navy in particular, has the confidence in us to continue improving our facility."

The millions will be used to add three large cranes to the yard to speed up productivity. The underground electrical system and drainage will also be upgraded. Crews plan to  turn the sandy yard into a concrete assembly area.

"It makes for easier construction when you are building on concrete."

Skinner said the money will also help stabilize his workforce and produce a better product for his customers. VT Halter expects infrastructure improvements to begin the first of the year. Northrop Grumman shipyards in Pascagoula, Gulfport and New Orleans will get $12.2 million.

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