A new study reports that Louisiana's shipyard and waterway industries have taken a pretty big hit with the downturn in oil prices in recent years.
Oil prices have climbed back up, and many at the Port of Iberia are hopeful their industries will follow suit. The port is one of Acadiana's biggest money makers and largest employers, according to Port Director Craig Romero.
"When we're at our best, we have 5,000 employees working at the Port of Iberia. In terms of Acadiana, where else do you have that generates 5,000 jobs? Not too many places," said Romero.
But right now, he said not even the port can generate that much work.
"For the last eight years, up until 2015, tugboat manufacturing was in this yard. They had 150 employees building four tugboats per year, from scratch," said Romero
The new study, conducted by LSU, reports that the state has lost upward of $5 billion, and more than 20,000 shipyard and waterway jobs since 2014. Romero said the reason is a big drop in oil prices, that's causing ports like the one in Iberia to rethink daily operations.
Romero said one tugboat yard at the port alone used to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
"Today, I'm probably making about $60,000 per year and there's no payroll checks on top of that. That $300,000 the port received for use of the yard, and then you had 150 payroll checks going to families all over Acadiana. You don't have that anymore," said Romero.
The former manufacturing yard is now operating as a parking lot for boats that were once used to bring supplies offshore. With oil prices making a rebound, Romero is hopeful the port will be bustling with business soon.
"Oil and gas prices are in the mid 60's right now and that's good. People are feeling good because you can make money in the Gulf of Mexico at $50 per barrel. So at $65, if it can stay there, I don't want it to go to $100 because when it goes really, really high, it goes really, really low when it takes a dive. So, I feel good about the $65 oil," said Romero.