Avondale Shipyard transforms from ship manufacturer to Avondale Marine, a hub of 21st century commerce
Photo Courtesy of Jefferson Parish Economic Development
It has been several years since the former Avondale Shipyard was last in operation, and a decision about its future has been anticipated since 2014. Its cranes, which once hoisted iron and steel to aid with the construction of military vessels and various other ships, have been motionless and unused in the shadows of the Huey P. Long bridge. The site has since served as a remnant of another age, time and function — but that will soon be changing, as Avondale’s second life is finally on the way.
What was once a bustling port facility, the Avondale location is poised for reinvigoration and is preparing to make its mark on the 21st century as it passes into new ownership. Joint-venture partners T. Parker Host, a maritime solutions provider located in Virginia, and Hilco Global, an Illinois based financial service firm, negotiated the sale with Avondale’s former owner, Huntington Ingalls. The site will soon be converted into a multimodal transportation center, similar to the ones popping up across the U.S. in major cities like Baltimore and Chicago. These facilities all have one thing in common: their locations allow them to access the transportation power of rail, road and water.
A multimodal park is a transport hub that utilizes the combined functions of water, railroads and trucking to gather and move products from place to place in an efficient and cost-effective manner. In today’s economy, multimodal growth is driven by transportation costs. Hubs that make use of various modes of transportation will be more cost-effective than their more traditional counterparts. In many cases, these multimodal hubs will also be more environmentally friendly, as trains emit less greenhouse gases than trucks. With the rise of e-commerce and more consumers electing to purchase products online, there is a need for places that are equipped to move product quickly and efficiently, via multiple modes of travel, taking into account load sizes, destinations and distance to be traveled.
At the peak of its powers, the Avondale site employed over 26,000 people, a boon to the local economy and the greater New Orleans metropolitan area in general. It was founded in 1938, a few years after the Great Depression, with America still trying to find its footing, and with a looming war overseas. When World War II finally did reach U.S. shores, Avondale Shipyard was contracted to aid in the war effort, building destroyers and escort ships for the U.S. Navy. Avondale continued to be active in shipbuilding arrangements with the U.S. Military during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts as well. After most of the smoke settled overseas, Avondale attached itself to the emerging oil and natural gas industry that was taking shape in Louisiana and the surrounding areas. This led to the transformation of Avondale into a company that manufactured drilling barges and rigs. Now, the Avondale site will reshape itself as Avondale Marine, LLC, linking its resources to our shifting economy and modern methods of doing business.
At the 2018 State of Jefferson luncheon, Jefferson Parish President Michael Yenni boasted that with 8,000 feet of deep-water riverfront access and connection to six Class 1 railroads, Avondale “will become a world class global logistics hub of manufacturing, fabrication and distribution facilities that will maximize job growth and investment in Jefferson.”
Yenni said the first order of business is to restore the rail access and refurbish the docks. He noted that the Avondale Marine team has already started work on the docks, with a completion goal for the summer of 2019. Furthermore, according to Jerry Bologna, President and CEO of Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO), in addition to the processing and transporting of goods, the site will also have a manufacturing component leading to the creation of 2,000 direct and indirect jobs. Yenni added that the quality of jobs is just as important as the amount of jobs, as this logistics hub will employ “largely high-skilled, high wage jobs in the same manner that Avondale once provided.”
Those cranes — or perhaps newer, shinier models, existing on the 206-acre property —will once again come to life over the Mississippi River, linking rail, road and water, gathering product in its open arms, and delivering via those modes of transportation throughout the Unites States and beyond. Along with the expansion and improvements of the Huey P. Long bridge, this purchase and redevelopment of the property will be beneficial to the Jefferson Parish economy for many years to come.