A year after Hurricane Katrina wreaked more than $1b of damage on its Gulf Coast shipyards
, Northrop Grumman Corp.
is building 12 Navy ships
, with the longest delay estimated at just 10 months. Last December, Reuters reported, the company had anticipated delays on several ships of close to a year. It is now predicted that the longest delay would be 10 months on the Aegis guided missile destroyer Kidd, and also a nine-month delay on LPD-20, one of four amphibious transport dock ships under construction at the company's New Orleans, Pascagoula and Gulfport, Mississippi shipyards. The company still faces serious challenges, such as finding 800 to 1,000 skilled workers to fit pipes and handle other work in its shops, and getting workers already on its payroll -- many of whom lost everything in the storm -- to put in a full 40-hour work week. Northrop recently held meetings with shipyard workers to understand why it was having trouble meeting goals for retention, training and attendance. Northrop hired 3,000 new workers since the storm and was aggressively recruiting in areas like Houston and Puerto Rico. It was also seeking a waiver that would allow it to use skilled foreign workers, a practice normally banned given the sensitive nature of the work. Northrop expected to conclude talks with the Navy in a matter of months about how to best use $140m in public funds earmarked for the Katrina recovery and is working closely with the Navy to cut overall shipbuilding costs. (Source: Reuters)