AVONDALE, La. - There is finally a spark that could lead to a new lease on life for the old Avondale Shipyards on the Westbank of Jefferson Parish.
Friday, shipyard owner Huntington Ingalls announced a new partnership with Kinder Morgan, the third largest energy company in North America. The joint venture will explore and evaluate best-use opportunities for the facility.
Jefferson Parish President John Young hopes the partnership will build new pipelines and equipment for the oil and gas and petrol-chemical industries at Avondale.
"If you look at all the predictions from all the experts," Young said, "the next ten years are going to be a boom in the offshore oil industry that we haven't seen, plus we have all this investment up and down the river in terms of plant expansion and new plant creation."
The last navy ship built at Avondale has sailed and the facility that once employed 5,000 workers is now down to just a skeleton staff to maintain the site.
There has been a major push to keep the facility open in some capacity ever since Huntington Ingalls announced it was closing the shipyard.
Tony Ligi from the Jefferson Business Council says Avondale can be a multi-use site.
"Obviously, the continued operation of it, is something that is so important to the economy of Jefferson Parish as well as the region," said Ligi. "It would be such a major coup for Jefferson Parish and for the region to re-purpose that facility and make it vital as it had been in the past."
Workers are less optimistic about the prospects at the old shipyard. One union representative, who did not want to be interviewed said to come talk to him when the study becomes a reality. He says unless and until then, the future at Avondale remains in limbo.
In the meantime, JP leaders say at the end of a painful process, there is the potential for a new day at Avondale.
"You have two blue-chip companies Huntington Ingalls and Kinder Morgan who are now joining forces, at least for a study and hopefully that study will come to fruition with a joint venture that will really put that piece of property back on the map," said Young. "Losing Avondale, which had been our largest state employer would be a big blow for Jefferson Parish and it has always been on everybody's radar screen to do what can be done to save that facility."
The joint venture gave no timetable as to how long it would take to study the possibilities at Avondale.