Philly Shipyard

Catalina Jaramillo/WHYY

Trump officials say they want to make the Philly Shipyard great again.

After two recent contracts repairing Navy vessels helped put about 100 employees back to work, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer visited Thursday and told shipyard employees he’s looking to send more work to Philadelphia.

“Keep doing what you’re doing on these ships, and there’s more to come,” Spencer said.

The commercial shipbuilding company, which is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange and based at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, has zero orders for new ships and delivered the last one in March.

In the last two years, the company laid off more than 1,000 employees. According to its financial information revenues for the first quarter of 2019 were $18.9 million, compared to $43.0 million in the same period last year.

Peter Navarro, one of President Trump’s top trade advisers, also visited and said the plan is to have more repair and new ship contracts in the years ahead.

“So we want to move from the low of around 80 over to a thousand over the next 2, 3, 5, 10 years,” Navarro said.

Fred Chamberlain has worked at the Philly Shipyard for 19 years. He said he wasn’t able to find a new job after being laid off earlier this year. He’s 57 years old and lives in South Jersey with his wife. He says it was terrible to spend 3 and a half months unemployed, not knowing how long it would last.

He was called back after the government repair contracts were signed.

“I’m really happy to be back,” Chamberlain said. “I’m happy with having a glimpse of our future, hopefully things are snowballing and getting better and better and better and maybe we can start building ships for the United States government.”

He says repairing ships is a lot different than building new ones. “It’s much more involved,” he said, “Getting the old out, getting the new in… There’s a lot of damage and a lot more dust.”

He says he personally prefers building new ships, but he’s happy to be learning how to make repairs.

“Gives us one more thing that we can put in our pockets and say that we do.”

This article originally appeared on WHYY.org.

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