Six months after Todd Shipyards announced that it was shutting down its San Pedro operation, officials at the Port of Los Angeles say they expect a new company to open a ship repair facility there, possibly as soon as early March.
News that the San Pedro yard might once again open for business--albeit in the form of a scaled-down facility that will only repair ships and not build them--was greeted with cheers in this seaside community, where shipyard work has been a way of life since World War I.
"As far as we're concerned, the sooner the better," said Leron Gubler, executive director of the San Pedro Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. "We would like to save the ship repair industry."
The announcement that the port is negotiating a lease with North American Shipyards, an Agoura-based investment group, came as Todd managers packed up what remains of their records and moved them to a Wilmington warehouse. There, 16 Todd employees will continue to wrap up the company's affairs after four decades of business in Los Angeles Harbor.
Beginning today, the only Todd workers left on the sprawling San Pedro yard--which in its heyday employed as many as 6,000--will be the security guards.
"We're all moving out this morning and then we've got a barbecue at lunch and that's it," Tom O'Toole, the yard's assistant general manager, said Wednesday. "It's real sad. The last day."
Todd's parent company, Todd Shipyards Corp. of Jersey City, N.J., announced in July that it was closing down the vast San Pedro yard, which had churned out guided-missile frigates during the 1980s under a massive peacetime buildup of the Navy's fleet. The yard's closure is part of a reorganization plan for the parent company, operating under the protection of federal bankruptcy law for more than two years.
North American Shipyards, whose proposal has been praised by the union that represented Todd workers, envisions a streamlined shop with lower overhead, fewer managers, an employee stock ownership plan, profit-sharing incentives and a union seat on the Board of Directors. The company will use half the 104-acre Todd site; the port plans to develop the other half as a shipping terminal.
"We see them as a solid base," said Bill Trejo, who as the union executive director was often at odds with Todd. "They've got some excellent individuals as far as marketing and background people and we've got the workers."
Company spokesman Jack Taylor said North American expects to employ between 150 and 175 people at first. "Then it really depends on how fast the work comes in," he said.
But before North American can open for business, three agreements must be completed:
* North American and Todd must agree on a purchase price for the shipyard's machinery and other assets. Although he would not reveal specifics, Taylor said Todd has accepted North American's offer. Todd officials could not be reached.
* Todd and the port must agree on who will pay for an expensive cleanup of environmental contamination at the Todd site--an issue the two sides have been wrangling over for months. Tay Yoshitani, the port's deputy executive director, said the two sides are close to a settlement.
* North American and the port must agree on the terms of the lease for the Todd property. Although he would not disclose the terms, Yoshitani said, "I think we have a meeting of the minds on most of the key deal points."