PIONEERING THE U.S. OFFSHORE RIG BUILDING INDUSTRY – INGALLS SHIPBUILDING
In 1938, Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation was founded by Robert Ingersoll Ingalls Sr. (1882–1951) of Birmingham, Alabama, on the East Bank of the Pascagoula River in Mississippi. Ingalls was located where the Pascagoula River runs into the Gulf of Mexico. It started out building commercial ships including USS George Clymer, which took part in Liberty Fleet Day on 27 September 1941
Although it is by far the largest and the most important shipbuilding operation on the Gulf Coast as well as Mississippi’s number one employer, Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula has only been sporadically involved in the offshore industry. A subsidiary of Ingalls Iron Works in Birmingham, Alabama, Ingalls Shipbuilding moved onto the site of a former-World War I repair yard in 1938. Throughout its history Ingalls has owed its existence and continued success to one thing: local, state, and federal monies. Since the company’s initial move to Jackson County, which was funded through a program allowing the state and municipalities to issue public bonds for private construction, Ingalls has subsisted largely upon contracts with the U.S. Navy and, to a lesser extent, the Merchant Marine. Even so, between 1950 and 1961, the same year that the yard was acquired by Litton Industries of Beverly Hills, 193 California, Ingalls constructed approximately eighteen submersibles, semisubmersibles, and OSVs for use in the offshore oil fields
As far as construction for the offshore industry is concerned, Ingalls was relatively quiet throughout the 1960s and 1970s. With multimillion dollar defense orders to fill, the yard had little time to spare building drilling rigs and exploratory vessels. The only apparent exception occurred in 1964-65 when Ingalls constructed the $7 million semisubmersible SEDCO-135. Capable of drilling in 600-ft of water, the acre-sized rig was the largest in the world at that time (Offshore 1964a, 1965c). This notable milestone, however, was not to be repeated in the Ingalls yard until the early 1980s—for the remainder of the decade and on through the next, Pascagoula built destroyers, submarines, and assault ships, but no offshore vessels. The yard’s reemergence as a supplier of this industry occurred in 1981 when, perhaps as a result of waning federal subsidies for shipbuilders, the yard began to produce jackups and semisubmersibles in earnest.
Ingalls was the only North American contractor to build the L-780 jackups under Friede & Goldman license. It was also a major overhauler and modifier of offshore drilling rigs and barges.
In the early 1980s the shipyard had a total of 14 rigs under construction, including ten L-780 jackups, including four units for the Houston-based rig owner Keyes Offshore.
This construction boom continued through the end of 1982 and then ceased until the late 1990s when the company once more began producing OSVs. In 2001, Litton was purchased by Northrop Grumman and Ingalls became formally known as “Northrop Grumman Ship Systems Ingalls Operations”
Ingalls Shipbuilding employs today up to11,500 employees. It is the largest manufacturing employer in Mississippi and a major contributor to the economic growth of Mississippi and Alabama. Ingalls is the largest supplier of U.S. Navy surface combatants, and has built nearly 70 percent of the U.S. Navy fleet of warships.
(Source: OCS/History of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry in Southern Louisiana/Wikipedia – Image: Mrs. Jennie Mae Turner, welder at the Ingalls shipyard, Pascagoula, Mississippi, 1943/Library of Congress, Washington D.C.)
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