The Key Highway Shipyard was once owned by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, which used to be the largest shipbuilding company in the world. The Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, founded in 1857, operated the Maryland based Key Highway Shipyard that repaired various ships for commercial and military use. The Key Highway Shipyard prided itself on it’s electrical and mechanical departments, and was known to have a noteworthy turnaround rate. Unfortunately, many former Key Highway Shipyard workers were exposed to asbestos, causing them to suffer severe and fatal diseases including Mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.

History of the Key Highway Shipyard

One of Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation’s many shipyards, the 424 acre Key Highway Shipyard was a hub for ship repair and shipbuilding. During World War I and World War II, shipbuilding was at its peak in the United States, and the Maryland Key Highway Shipyard played a major role in U.S. Navy ship production and repair. As part of the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, the Key Highway Shipyard contributed to the total of 1,121 naval ships produced by the company in the World War era. During this time, the Key Highway Shipyard employed close to 11,000 workers and aided tremendously to the war effort by converting merchant vessels to navy ships and repairing others.

International competition in the ship industry grew tremendously after the war as bombed overseas plants were rebuilt with the newest technology. These foreign companies used a variety of new machinery and techniques to produce steel at a quicker rate and at a lower cost. Steel became cheaper to import from overseas plants. Consequently, the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation lost an enormous amount of business and was forced to shut down many of its production facilities. The Key Highway Shipyard suffered setbacks as the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation transferred the little business it had to other locations.

The Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, at one time one of the most affluent and largest steel producers, filed for bankruptcy in 2001. The remaining plants were bought by The International Steel Group. Despite the Key Highway Shipyard’s ultimate close, its contribution to one of the most significant industrial companies of the century will be long remembered.

Key Highway Shipyard & Asbestos

A large number of former Key Highway Shipyard workers are at a great risk for developing serious health complications because many Key Highway Shipyard workers who were employed before the 1980s were exposed to high levels of asbestos for a prolonged period of time. 

Asbestos material was used in ship building at the Key Highway Shipyard to insulate boilers, steam pipes, incinerators, and other forms of ship machinery. Asbestos was ideal for these uses because it was able to resist corrosion and high temperatures. Unfortunately, asbestos exposure can cause severe and fatal diseases, including a form of cancer called mesothelioma. With mesothelioma malignant cells develop in the protective lining that covers most of the body’s internal organs, including the heart, stomach, and lungs.  

The health risks associated with asbestos were not well known until the 1980s, and no special precautions were taken at the Key Highway Shipyard to prevent asbestos inhalation. For many years, ship builders, crew, and longshoremen at the Key Highway Shipyard were all heavily exposed to asbestos dust in poorly ventilated areas.

To date, several lawsuits have been filed by former Key Highway Shipyard workers who were injured by asbestos exposure at work. In 1988, former Key Highway Shipyard employees filed a lawsuit against Raymark Industries, a company that manufactures  asbestos containing materials. The former Key Highway Shipyard employees alleged that they suffered from asbestos related diseases, including Mesothelioma. In addition, many other companies have been the targets of lawsuits brought by shipyard workers who were injured by asbestos exposure at work.

Asbestos Injuries at the Key Highway Shipyard – Maryland

If you or a loved were exposed to asbestos at the Key Highway Shipyard, contact us today to determine if you have a case and are entitled to compensation.

Published November 17, 2011 by