Could a Louisiana-based shipbuilder be playing a shell game with Mississippi taxpayers?

By Steve Wilson | From

During the past session, the Mississippi Legislature agreed to borrow $11 million to help Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO) subsidiary TopShip build a shipyard, along with $25 million in post-Hurricane Katrina Community Development Block Grants provided by the Port of Gulfport.

The site — now owned by the Port of Gulfport and where Huntington Ingalls once built composite deckhouses for advanced Navy destroyers — is less than a quarter mile down the industrial canal from Chouest’s Gulf Ship yard, which opened in 2006. The older yard builds supply vessels for offshore oil exploration and production.

According to the Biloxi Sun Herald, the shipyard has been hit by layoffs, going from 600 workers when the offshore oil business was booming, to around 300 as of February. Calls and emails to ECO about its two Gulfport shipyards went unanswered.

Mississippi Development Authority spokesman Jeff Rent told Mississippi Watchdog that MDA and Gulf Ship successfully completed a project several years ago and “any jobs created at TopShip will be considered new jobs.”

ECO’s shipyard is supposed to create 1,000 new jobs on the former Huntington Ingalls site, but Chouest’s track record on keeping agreements is a spotty one, with broken promises in both its native Louisiana and Texas.

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