NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC)- Hampton Roads' private shipyards are going through an especially tough time right now.

There's not a lot of work. Especially at General Dynamics NASSCO, where the dry dock and piers are currently empty. But, one ship repair industry leader is hopeful for a turnaround in the not too distant future.

"I've never sen it like it is right now," said Virginia Ship Repair Association President Bill Crow. "This is the most desolate I've seen those shipyards."

The piers and dry docks at the old Metro Machine, now NASSCO, are not exactly humming with activity right now.

It's simple mathematics. In 2012, there were 56 surface combatant Navy warships based here. Today, it's 38.

"That's concerning because they've got to pay their bills and they pay their bills by keeping ships there and keeping them repaired," said Crow, who is hopeful there will be brighter days ahead.

"In the summer, we should see relief," he said. "And it looks like that should continue to improve on into fiscal year '17 and through a good part of fiscal year '17."

That would be good news for an industry that suffered through some 1,700 layoffs here in Hampton Roads since last fall, with the possibility of more before the year ends.

"I hope by this summer that we'll be putting some of them back into shipyards that may have had to leave or been put on furlough, so that they can go back to work," said Crow.

One example: The announcement in May that the Navy has awarded BAE Systems Norfolk, formerly NORSHIPCO, a $52.5 million contract to perform repair work on the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge. A company spokesman says he expects the Kearsarge to arrive within 6 weeks.