BATH – Bath Iron Works says it will lay off 40 pipe coverers and insulators because of a lack of work for those specific skills.

The layoffs include 15 pipe coverers and 25 insulators, said the shipbuilder, a unit of General Dynamics. BIW’s current employment is more than 5,500 workers, an increase of about 550 since the start of this year.

“It’s a typical characteristic in shipbuilding that we need different trade skills at different times. We try to balance the level of work in the shipyard, but sometimes there’s a need for layoffs,” said BIW spokesman Jim DeMartini.

In June, the Navy awarded contracts for nine new DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, four of which will be built at BIW.

Navy officials said BIW will likely get a contract for a fifth ship if Congress and the Pentagon can close a $304 million shortfall caused by the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.

BIW is one of Maine’s largest employers, with about 5,400 workers. It has built more than half of the 66 Arleigh Burke-class ships purchased by the Navy since 1985.

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhall@pressherald.com