By Andrea Shalal-Esa–WASHINGTON | Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:19pm EDT–(Reuters) – The Navy will announce steps on Friday to ensure continued work for 5,000 workers at Northrop Grumman Corp’s Avondale, Louisiana shipyard, which the company plans to close by 2013, two Louisiana lawmakers said.

shipyard, which the company plans to close by 2013, two Louisiana lawmakers said.

The Navy plans to move up construction of double-hulled tankers from 2017 to 2014, and will guarantee that two LPD amphibious transport ships currently under construction at the Avondale shipyard will be completed there, Senator Mary Landrieu and Representative Charlie Melancon said in a statement released on Thursday evening.

“That requirement will ensure thousands of jobs at Avondale through 2013,” said the two Democratic lawmakers.

Louisiana lawmakers have been urging Northrop to reverse its decision, arguing that closing the shipyard will further devastate a region already hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the BP oil spill this year.

Northrop spokesman Randy Belote declined comment.

Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley plans a news conference on Friday morning.

The new timeline for constructing double-hulled tankers would give the Avondale shipyard an opportunity to compete for new contracts beginning in 2014, making the facility more attractive to prospective new shipbuilding buyers, Landrieu and Melancon said in their joint statement.

Northrop announced plans in July to shift work from the Avondale shipyard, including on the two LPD ships, and close the shipyard by 2013, as part of a consolidation of its Gulf shipbuilding work in Mississippi. [ID:nN1337570]. The company is seeking to spin off or sell the entire shipbuilding division.

The AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department, which represents the Northrop shipyard workers, said its leaders met with White House officials last week about the issue.

They were concerned that Northrop would complete work on the two LPD ships at its Mississippi shipyard, which could paved the way for closing the Louisiana yard before 2013.

Ron Ault, president of the Metal Trades Department, welcomed the Navy’s expected announcement, and said it could help keep the shipyard open past 2013.

He praised the efforts of lawmakers on the issue, and said it showed that the Obama administration was being responsive to the economic impact on the Gulf Coast region.

“This buys us some breathing space to keep Avondale open beyond Northrop Grumman’s scheduled shutdown date and we are very grateful to everyone who helped,” Ault said.

Northrop last month issued layoff notices to 205 workers at Avondale and Tallulah facilities in Louisiana, as well as 292 workers at its Pascagoula shipbuilding facility in Mississippi. Further cuts of 350 workers are planned in Mississippi.

“While today’s announcement is not a silver bullet, it is a small step in the direction of making Avondale viable years into the future,” Landrieu said in a statement.

“We will continue to press the Navy to increase the shipbuilding workload at Avondale and pursue private shipbuilding opportunities as a long-term solution to preserving these 5,000 jobs,” she added.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; editing by Carol Bishopric, Phil Berlowitz)