Austal USA Cited for the Third Time in Five Years for Serious Health and Safety Violations

WASHINGTON, DC—Navy shipbuilder, Austal USA, was cited November 18, 2014, by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), for 12 serious health and safety violations. This was the third citation in the last five years.

The company was cited and fined for a dozen health violations including fall hazards; improperly secured gas cylinders; improper wiring, exposing workers to possible electrical shock, and other electrical hazards; failure to prevent accidental machine startup; improper machine guards exposing workers to potential amputations, puncture and being caught in machines; failing to properly store and label hazardous materials.  Some of the most concerning issues is the overexposure to copper fumes while welding, along with overexposure to aluminum dust. Fines totaled more than $40,000.

Austal USA, is the U.S. subsidiary of the Australian company Austal, LLC. The company builds the Independence Variant of the LCS Class high-speed for the U.S. Navy.

“The government expects that contractors, such as Austal, should not only deliver a good product, but also conduct operations in a safe manner,” said Joseph Roesler, OSHA’s area director in Mobile, in a press release issued by OSHA. “The lack of attention to safety and health issues unnecessarily exposed employees to hazards at the Mobile facility, and these hazards need to be addressed and controlled throughout the shipbuilding process.”

“We have been saying for years that there are serious safety concerns in that shipyard,” said Ron Ault, president of the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO. “These are some of the most egregious violations that are putting workers at risk right now, but, also down the road. The company is failing to provide proper ventilation allowing workers to be overexposed to copper fumes and aluminum dust.  That failure can lead to illnesses later in life. We’ve had reports of numerous workers experiencing chronic respiratory issues, headaches, and nose bleeds. And, workers are being fired for missing work because they can’t get rid of these respiratory and flu like symptoms. A quick look at the Safety data sheets related to the potential health hazards from being exposed to these materials at Austal is alarming. Flu & pneumonia like symptoms, chronic respiratory issues, memory loss, pulmonary fibrosis, kidney problems and cancer are some of the most distressing health effects.”

The Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO was contacted by workers seeking a union at the shipyard a few years ago and has been conducting an organizing campaign through their Mobile Metal Trades Council.

Austal receives billions dollars from their Navy contract and has received more than $100 million in funding from the state of Alabama. “With all of the government funding that this foreign company receives there is no excuse for ignoring basic health and safety laws,” said Ault.

The Metal Trades Department is a trade department of the AFL-CIO. It was chartered in 1908 to coordinate negotiating, organizing and legislative efforts of affiliated metalworking and related crafts and trade unions. Seventeen national and international unions are affiliated with the MTD today. More than 100,000 workers in private industry and federal establishments work under contracts negotiated by MTD Councils. Workers retain membership in their own trade unions.


Ingalls Shipbuilding Celebrates Apprentice Graduation

By George Blackwell,

Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) informs that it has held a graduation ceremony for graduates of Ingalls Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School. The ceremony, held at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention Center, celebrated the accomplishments of 72 students representing various crafts at Ingalls.

This is the first graduating class that had students who attended classes in the new Haley Reeves Barbour Maritime Training Academy. Through the academy, Ingalls is entering into a new phase of partnership with the Mississippi Community College System that offers a path into bachelor’s degree programs.

Currently, more than 60 faculty and staff deliver 14 different programs and over 120 course offerings that enable apprentices to gain not only the skills, knowledge and pride of workmanship, but also the educational foundation and personal qualities needed to fully meet the challenges of a shipbuilding career. Today more than 1,500 apprentice alumnae fill approximately 50 different types of jobs at Ingalls, from pipe welders to senior executives.

Since 1952, the Apprentice School has produced more than 4,000 graduates in support of Ingalls’ operational needs. The program involves comprehensive two- to four-year curriculum for students interested in shipbuilding careers.

“The expertise you’ve acquired during your time at the Ingalls Apprentice School will serve you well throughout your career, as you establish yourselves as the next generation of craftsmen,” said Vice Adm. William Hilarides, commander, Naval Sea Systems Command, who served as the keynote speaker. “Whether you’re graduating today as an electrician, a welder, a sheet metal cutter or one of the many other trades, you are providing a much-needed skill, not just to Ingalls, but to the Navy and the nation.

Marine electrician Brandon Hamilton, the Outstanding Apprentice of the Year, spoke at the ceremony. “I’m a fourth-generation Ingalls shipbuilder,” he said, “so I grew up hearing about the shipyard and wanted to become a part of it. I learned many things and got a well-rounded experience in the apprentice program. Working with different foremen and crews in many areas of the ship taught me new ways to work with a team, and I learned valuable skills that will stay with me as I enter into this new phase of my career.”

“This ceremony is a celebration of your successful completion of this apprentice program and is an opportunity for us to show you how proud we are of you and what you have accomplished,” said Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias. “When you entered the program, we believed in your potential. Being here today proves we were right. As I look out across this room, I am encouraged by what our future holds. I am proud of each and every one of you. Continue the momentum you have started, because you are the future of Ingalls Shipbuilding.”

Owner of Avondale Shipyard acquires energy company UniversalPegasus

By Jed Lipinski, | The Times-Picayune on June 02, 2014 at 4:28 PM, updated June 02, 2014 at 4:37 PM

In what may be a good sign for Avondale Shipyard, Huntington Ingalls Industries announced today that is has acquired UniversalPegasus International Holdings, a Houston company that provides engineering and project management services to the energy sector.

The news comes shortly after Huntington Ingalls, a shipbuilder based in Newport News, Va., agreed to conduct a six-month study with Kinder Morgan Energy Partners to determine a new use for the struggling shipyard, whose workforce has been reduced to less than 500 from around 5,000 in 2010. Keep Reading >

Making headway with America's maritime industry; U.S. shipping is key to domestic prosperity and security

BYLINE: By Duncan Hunter and Steve Scalise

Those searching for signs of hope in the U.S. economy need look no further than an industry too often taken for granted – the American maritime industry.

In the midst of a renaissance that is creating jobs and leading an American economic recovery, the men and women who work on U.S. vessels and in U.S. shipyards collectively contribute billions to our national economy.

The growth opportunities in the domestic maritime sector stem from the boom in domestic oil production. Leading this boom is the high demand to move the abundance of natural gas and oil being produced here at home. In fact, recent headlines have celebrated the resurgence in U.S. shipbuilding, with our home states of California and Louisiana among the nation’s shipyard leaders.

The latest example of this economic renaissance can be found in San Diego, where the construction of the world’s first liquefied natural gas-powered container ships are underway. These vessels are not only the most advanced, environmentally progressive vessels of their kind, but they also represent $350 million in U.S. investment, support 600 American shipyard jobs and brighten the future of the indispensable domestic maritime industry.

The San Diego project is far from the only notable example of the innovation and investment that is taking place in the domestic maritime industry today. Seven of the top 10 busiest ports in the United States are found along the Gulf Coast. Nearly 30,000 Louisianans work in the private sector on the front lines as they build and repair ships, earning an average salary of more than $70,000 in the process.

American companies and workers are applying American ingenuity – and investing billions of dollars – to meet the nation’s transportation needs. Whether through new vessel construction, innovative technology or rigorous safety training, at a time when other industries are suffering from uncertainty, the domestic maritime industry is investing in its future and safeguarding its resilience. All Americans will reap the benefits.

This growth would not be possible without the Merchant Marine Act passed by Congress in 1920, commonly referred to as the Jones Act, which requires that vessels moving cargo between U.S. ports be owned by American companies, crewed by American mariners and built in American shipyards. The resulting benefits cannot be understated: More than 40,000 American-owned vessels built in American shipyards and crewed by American mariners move agricultural goods, petroleum, coal, natural gas, chemicals and other essential commodities safely and efficiently along our rivers and coastlines. The domestic maritime industry supports nearly 500,000 jobs and almost $100 billion in economic output.

The security importance of this law is equally, if not more important than the economic benefits. For decades, U.S. military leaders have supported the Jones Act because of its national and homeland security benefits. One remarkable, historic example came on Sept. 11, 2001, when the New York maritime community responded to unbelievable tragedy in a most astonishing manner, assisting with the largest maritime evacuation on record as it transported more than 500,000 people away from Manhattan after the attacks. Additionally, the Jones Act supports our men and women in uniform. During the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 90 percent of all needed material was moved to the war zones using water transportation.

The domestic maritime industry also protects America’s security interests within our own borders. Our connected system of waterways links the heart of our nation to our coasts. Without the Jones Act, vessels and crews from foreign nations could move freely on U.S. waters, creating a more porous border, increasing possible security threats and introducing vessels and mariners who do not adhere to U.S. standards into the bloodstream of our nation.

We are blessed to have fellow Americans operating U.S. vessels between our ports and on our waterways. Our mariners are best in class in their training, safety and commitment to this great land. Waterborne commerce and our nation’s maritime base are vital to our nation’s economy, security and quality of life.

The Jones Act should be hailed as a commercial and a public policy success. It is the critical factor that ensures a vibrant domestic maritime sector, which in turn helps propel the American economy and protect vital U.S. national and homeland security interests.

American maritime is investing in itself and leading an economic recovery. We would be wise to not get in its way.

Rep. Duncan Hunter of California and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana are Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives.


The Economic Importance of the U.S. Shipbuilding and Repairing Industry

The Economic Importance of the U.S. Shipbuilding and Repairing Industry

In May 2013, the Maritime Administration released its report on the economic importance of the shipbuilding industry. The report looks at the economic impact of the 117 shipyards in the United States, spread across 26 states, that are classified as active shipbuilders.

“In 2011, the U.S. private shipbuilding and repairing industry directly provided 107,240 jobs, $7.9 billion in labor income, and $9.8 billion in gross domestic product, or GDP, to the national economy. Including direct, indirect and induced impacts, on a nationwide basis, total economic activity associated with the industry reached 402,010 jobs, $23.9 billion of labor income, and $36.0 billion in GDP in 2011.”

“The industry impact by state varies based on the level of direct activity and the share of the supply chain included in the state. The states with the highest levels of overall direct, indirect, and induced employment associated with the industry are Virginia, California, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Connecticut, and Florida Considering the indirect and induced impacts, each direct job in the shipbuilding and repairing industry is associated with another 2.7 jobs in other parts of the US economy; each dollar of direct labor income and GDP is associated with another $2.03 in labor income and $2.66 in GDP, respectively, outside of the shipbuilding and repairing industry.”

Ayotte, Shaheen express concern about sequestration's impact on shipyard

WASHINGTON — Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., on Thursday continued to express concern about the impact of sequestration on Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

During a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on which both senators serve, Shaheen cited a letter from Paul O’Connor, president of the Metal Trades Council at the shipyard, in asking Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of Naval Operations, to elaborate on the long-term impact of sequestration, the automatic, across-the-board cuts in federal discretionary spending that kicked in last March.

Barring an agreement by Congress, another round of sequestration is slated to take place in January under a 2011 legislative deal that paved the way for an increase in the federal debt ceiling.

Questioning Greenert, Shaheen read verbatim from the O’Connor letter, in which he asked: “With nine and a half more years of sequestration hanging over our heads, nine and a half more years of furloughs and layoffs, how will we attract the best and brightest men and women to our technologically sophisticated, complex, precision-based industry?'”

O’Connor’s letter continued: “The security, instability and volatility of sequestration on our shipyard and national work force cannot be understated. The personal impact, mission impact and national security impact are real, and contrary to the best interest of America.'”

Replied Greenert: “I’m glad we get to see that letter, because it very clearly states the debilitating effect of doing this year after year. … We think we are saving costs, (but) we’re just avoiding costs.”

Greenert, who appeared at the Armed Services Committee hearing along with the top uniformed officers for the U.S. Army, Air Force and Marine Corps, went on to express his concern for the state of nuclear shipyards such as the Kittery, Maine, yard, whose mission focuses on repair and modernization of nuclear-powered submarines.

“I’m concerned about the shore infrastructure,” Greenert told Shaheen. “We’re deferring work that’s going to come to roost.”

Ayotte’s inquiry on the overall size of the Navy’s fleet led to a discussion of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s loss of the USS Miami project this past summer. The Navy announced in August it had decided not to repair the submarine, which was damaged in a fire set by civilian worker Casey Fury, citing the impact of sequestration and cost of the repairs.

“Unfortunately, due to sequestration, we lost the USS Miami, which was a project Portsmouth had,” Greenert said. “But the overruns, the furloughs, and the need to have to go to a commercial work force instead of using a federal work force … it was just too much, and we couldn’t afford that submarine and continue to do the others.”

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, also a member of the Armed Services Committee, echoed Shaheen and Ayotte’s contention that sequestration has compromised the capabilities of the U.S. military.

“It seems to be that we’re telling you that you have to cut a finger off and you get to decide which one,” he said. “That’s an unattractive form of having to make decisions.”