WEAK DEMAND HITS WEST COAST YARDs

Shipyards like Gunderson Marine and NASSCO are feeling the pinch from the weak shipbuilding market.

In late May, Portland, Ore.-based Gunderson, a subsidiary of the Greenbrier Companies , implemented a four-day workweek to reduce production rates. The move affected 400 employees.

Greenbrier blamed the cutbacks on “increased market uncertainty” due in part to the BP oil spill and delays in drilling projects that have made customers more cautious. The company also cited Portland’s new “River Plan,” which it said would increase regulation, bureaucracy and the cost of operating its facility. The plan goes into effect Jan. 1.

Just last spring Gunderson was busy with an order book stretching to the end of 2012. “We still have orders booked into 2012, but we have space ahead of that,” said Mark Eitzen, general manager of marine operations.

Gunderson expected to deliver the ninth of 13 heavy-lift deck barges in July for Crowley Maritime ‘s Vessel Management Services . Greenbrier’s marine backlog on May 31 was $75 million, compared to $200 million two years ago.

NASSCO’s San Diego yard has also felt the pressure. In mid-July, it laid off about 300 of its 4,100 workers and also eiiminated 270 subcontractor jobs due to a steep downturn in business. “We have told everyone to consider this layoff indefinite,” said spokesman Karl Johnson. – D.K. DuPont

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