Aker announced in August an agreement to build four, and potentially as many as eight, tankers for Crowley Maritime Corp.
"It's an exciting time. Aker Philadelphia Shipyard since 2011 has tripled the size of our organization," shipyard CEO Kristian Rokke said. "We won orders for $1.1 billion, and we've continued to invest in our facility for the future."
Rokke thanked Corbett for returning to the shipyard "when we are thriving." The governor "has been a strong advocate" and "we are grateful for his personal support and are proud to be delivering on our commitments made to the state of Pennsylvania."
Aker received $42 million from Pennsylvania taxpayers - set in motion by then-Gov. Ed Rendell; the Corbett administration released the money - in February 2011 to build two tankers, for which Aker ordered parts but had no buyers.
Without state money - and private construction financing Aker secured - the yard might have ended operations. Aker has since sold the two ships it built "on spec" to Crowley.
The agreement to build two 115,000-ton tankers for SeaRiver triggered the recall of workers and the restart of an apprenticeship program that was suspended in July 2010, when global financial trouble stalled shipbuilding and caused more than 600 layoffs at Aker.
Aker began recalling furloughed apprentices - shipbuilders in training - in October 2011. Currently, there are 56 apprentices.
These men - and one woman - will spend three years learning to be welders, shipbuilders, or pipefitters (called outfitters). They work 40 hours a week, are union members, get benefits, a pension, and time off. Aker began the apprenticeship program in 2004.
Devin Morrison, 20, the only female apprentice, is a welder. She went to Drexel University for one term and studied psychology, but left because "I felt like it was too expensive. I didn't want to get that far into debt."
She considered retail work and waitressing, but thinks welding is a better fit. "I like it."
Hanif Edens, 38, of Northeast Philadelphia, began as an apprentice ship painter in July. He learned about the shipyard program by word of mouth, applied, and was accepted.
"I love it. I haven't had a job that I can call home until now," he said.
Sherry Johnson, 41, of Philadelphia, is one of a handful of women who build ships.
"Morale is a lot better since work is back. The guys are excited about the new project," said Johnson, an outfitter team leader. "Everybody is excited."
"People feel good because they have work ahead of them," Philadelphia Metal Trades Council president Lou Agre said. "They know they have a job. There's enough work for a couple years, maybe longer. Hopefully, into the next decade."