Shipyard signs $400M contract with ExxonMobil
A Houston-based affiliate of ExxonMobil and the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard signed a $400 million contract for two oil tankers on Monday, sealing a pact expected to create more than 600 local jobs.
The additional jobs will push the total number of jobs at the shipyard to over 1,000, officials said, trumpeting the project for the jobs it would generate.
“This will take our numbers back up to more than 1,000 highly skilled, highly competent craftsmen and women who work on these new ships,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “What a spectacular achievement right here in Philadelphia. It’s a spectacular achievement that we’re still making ships here in the Navy Yard. It will only continue. It will only grow.”
The event drew a number of the state’s most prominent politicians to the shipyard for a ceremonial contract signing between SeaRiver Maritime and Acker in front a hulking segment of a ship — not one of the tankers — already under construction.
They all echoed Nutter, extolling the project as something that set a pattern for future growth.
“An investment here, in the people of Philadelphia, in this shipyard, is an investment on behalf of all Pennsylvania,” said Gov. Tom Corbett. “Because anywhere that Pennsylvanians succeed all Pennsylvanians succeed.”
One of the first acts of Corbett’s administration was providing the shipyard with $42 million in state funds.
Asked by reporters why he approved the funds at a time when the state was facing a deficit of more than $1 billion, Corbett answered that he viewed the move as an investment that would pay dividends for the state.
“We’re going to get it back through the employment here,” he said, meaning that ultimately the tax revenue generated by employees and the yard itself would cover the state’s investment.
“If Philadelphia grows Pennsylvania grows,” he said. “It is the job of government to help business create jobs for all of you, and that’s what we were working for.”
All of the jobs created through the construction of the two ships will be union jobs. According to Kristian Rokke, CEO of Acker, contracts were recently ratified with 11 unions involved in ship construction, allowing the shipyard to move forward.
“These people are highly skilled and motivated,” Rokke said. “They give me the confidence to say, “We are going to build these vessels to high standards. We’re going to deliver them on time and on budget.”
The latest incarnation of the shipyard, now the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard, opened in 2000, reinvigorating the stagnant facility. Prior to that, the shipyard, then the Naval Shipyard, employed roughly 7,000 people when it closed in 1995, raising doubts as to the future of what was once one of the busiest shipyards on the east coast.
Construction of the two ships is expected to begin in mid-2012 with SeaRiver Maritime taking delivery of both vessels in 2014. When completed, the two ships — Liberty class tankers, each 820 feet long, 115,000 tons — will be used to transport crude oil from Alaska to ports along the West Coast. Each double-hulled tanker will be able to carry 34 million gallons of crude. Both ships will be equipped with state of the art navigation equipment, oil mist and gas detection systems, and cleaner burning engines.
They will be the 17th and 18th ships built in Philadelphia by Aker.
“When these ships set sail they will sustain jobs in Alaska and in ports of call along the west coast,” said Andy Swiger, senior vice president from ExxonMobil. “And they will support good jobs at refineries and plants across America.”