Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayport Can Handle a Carrier, Report Announces; but There's Concern about Keeping Workers Employed until It's Here

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayport Can Handle a Carrier, Report Announces; but There's Concern about Keeping Workers Employed until It's Here

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeff Brumley

Floridians in Congress sounded elated about Tuesday's Government Accounting Office report declaring the region's ship repair companies certified and capable of handling much of the maintenance required to keep a Jacksonville-based carrier sailing.

U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., issued a statement lauding the report and boasting about capabilities of Northeast Florida's maritime maintenance industry. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said it all but ends political challenges to basing a nuclear-powered carrier at Mayport Naval Station.

"The bottom line is all systems are go - Mayport has a nuclear carrier coming," Nelson told The Times-Union.

But officials in the ship repair industry were focused on a different bottom line. They expressed concern about how companies will retain a large enough workforce amidst the ongoing decommissioning of Mayport's aging - but numerous - fleet of guided missile frigates.

The soonest a carrier is expected to move to Mayport is 2019, while 12 of the base's 13 frigates will disappear by 2015, according to the report.

"I think it's a pretty worrisome time for ship repair contractors and anybody who relies on the base for work," said Joe O'Conor, general manager of Earl Industries, one of the three major firms that repair Mayport-based warships.

Even the report raised questions about how those companies and dozens of smaller contractors will fare until the carrier arrives. It said the Navy has considered a number of mitigation efforts, including temporarily moving maintenance work or ships to Jacksonville.

MORE TO CONSIDER

The Navy also is expected to announce that it will base some of its new class of littoral combat ships and possibly some new guided missile destroyers at Mayport.

"More important than just a carrier - which is very important - is how do we get other ships into the Mayport basin?" said J. Michael McGrath, executive director of the Jacksonville Area Ship Repair Association. …

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