Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
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AVONDALE, La. -- The USS Somerset, the last Navy ship expected to be built at Avondale Shipyards, passed its sea trials.

According to Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), the amphibious transport dock returned from its acceptance trails in the Gulf of Mexico on Sept. 20.

The 684-foot-long vessel's primary mission is to transport up to 800 Marines, their fighting vehicles and aircraft.

'We have now completed successful sea trials on nine LPDs, and each ship continues to get better than the previous one,' said Mike Duthu, Ingalls' director of the LPD program. 'Our shipbuilders, and specifically the LPD 25 team, did an outstanding job in getting this ship prepared for this trial.'

The Somerset honors the courage of the passengers and crew members of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, near Shanksville in Somerset County, Pa.

Avondale Shipyards, on the west bank of Jefferson Parish, was once Louisiana's largest private employer with about 5,000 employees at the height of production. Huntington Ingalls is now expected to shutter the shipbuilding operation at the end of the year.

The company has been searching for a partner to transform the shipyards into a manufacturing facility for the oil, gas and petrochemical industry. So far, no word on whether HII has any work lined up to keep the facility open.

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