The Kaiser Shipyards consisted of seven shipyards owned by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Company. Four shipyards were located in Richmond, California and the other three in Washington. The Kaiser Shipyards were established in 1939 and constructed 1,490 vessels before they closed in 1945.

Kaiser Shipyard History  

The Kaiser Shipyards were founded by Henry Kaiser in 1939 to construct commercial merchant ships for the United States Maritime Commission. In 1940, when World War II began in Europe, the Kaiser Shipyards built warships for the British Navy. When the United States entered the war, the Kaiser Shipyards became some of the largest producing shipyards for the U.S. Navy.

The Kaiser Shipyards’ Shipbuilding Method

The Kaiser Shipyards were among the most efficient shipyards in the world. During WWII, the Kaiser Shipyards constructed 747 ships for the U.S. Navy. All together, the Kaiser Shipyards produced 1,490 ships, which represented 27% of the ships constructed for the United States Maritime Commission’s program. Workers at Kaiser Shipyards built ships two-thirds quicker than other shipyard workers and even constructed a Liberty Ship (large cargo ship) in just over two weeks.  

The Kaiser Shipyards’ efficiency was due to their innovative shipbuilding method. Their 97,000 men and women worked in an assembly line, allowing less experienced workers to contribute efficiently. The Kaiser Shipyards also started childcare programs to attract women with families to come work while their husbands were at war.

After their US Navy contracts ended in 1945, the Kaiser Shipyards were forced to close. 

Asbestos at Kaiser Shipyard           

Kaiser Shipyard employees were exposed to high asbestos levels at the shipyards. Asbestos, a toxic fibrous mineral, was widely used in ship construction until the late 1970s. Because of its durable and fire-resistant properties, asbestos was ideal for ship insulation, siding, and other shipbuilding materials. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they remain lodged in the body and can cause severe and fatal diseases, such as:

  • Mesothelioma (a rare cancer that affects the lining surrounding the lungs)
  • Asbestosis (lung tissue scarring)
  • Lung cancer
  • Esophageal, stomach, colon, or rectum cancer

Prior to 1978, Kaiser Shipyard workers were unaware of the dangers of asbestos exposure. Additionally, the Kaiser shipyards were poorly ventilated and workers did not wear protective clothing or respiratory equipment. As a result, many workers became ill with asbestos-related diseases. Because asbestos-related diseases may take up to 40 years to develop, many former Kaiser Shipyard workers may become ill sometime in the future.

Asbestos Injuries at Kaiser Shipyards – California

If you or a loved has been injured by asbestos exposure that occurred while working at the Kaiser Shipyards, please contact us today as you may be entitled to compensation. 

Published November 17, 2011 by