Somerset, last ship to be built at HII’s Avondale shipyard, departs today

By Staff Mississippi Press

Workers are seen in front of the hull of the USS Somerset as they prepare for the commissioning of the USS Somerset at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard Shipyard in Avondale, La., Wednesday, July 25, 2012. photo nola.com

Workers are seen in front of the hull of the USS Somerset as they prepare for the commissioning of the USS Somerset at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard Shipyard in Avondale, LA. photo nola.com

AVONDALE, Louisiana — The last Navy warship that will be built in Huntington Ingalls Industries Avondale shipyard — and the third in the series of vessels named for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — is scheduled to leave the West Jefferson shipyard today.

Read the complete story on nola.com here.

The Somerset, a 684-foot amphibious transport dock ship, is set to join the Navy fleet on March 1 in a commissioning ceremony in Philadelphia.

Its Navy crew will launch from the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard about 8 a.m., passing through New Orleans’ downtown area about a half hour later as it heads down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. To give the ship and its Navy crew a patriotic send-off, an effort is afoot to lure people to line the levees from Avondale through Plaquemines Parish.

“Just let these sailors know that we care about them, what they’re doing for us,” said Mike Binnings, a Navy veteran and Navy contractor whose wife, Charlotte, is spearheading the effort. “You just don’t want to see the last ship leave without some kind of fanfare.”

The Avondale shipyard opened in 1938, largely serving maritime and oilfield customers. It delivered its first Navy vessel in 1951, according to shipbuildinghistory.com.

It was Louisiana’s largest private employer for a time, peaking at 26,000 workers, but the number had dwindled to 5,000 by 2010, when plans were announced to close it. Employment now stands at less than 700.

(Paul Purpura of nola.com wrote this report.)

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