History of Fore River Shipbuilding

Fore River Shipbuilding was founded in 1884 on the Weymouth Fore River in Massachusetts. During its years of existence, the ownership of Fore River shipbuilding changed hands numerous times. Fore River Shipbuilding operations focused primarily on the construction of vessels for the U.S. Navy. In 1901, Fore River Shipbuilding was awarded one of its first Navy contracts for the construction of two 14,600 ton battleships, the New Jersey and the Rhode Island. Fore River Shipbuilding was also involved in building modern submarines as early as 1909.    

Fore River Shipbuilding contributed enormously to the naval arsenal during World War I, producing many important warships. The war brought an influx of naval contracts that kept Fore River Shipbuilding extremely busy. During this time, Fore River Shipbuilding built over 71 naval destroyers, with a record of completing one destroyer in just 174 working days. The Great Depression reduced the number of shipbuilding contracts, so the Fore River Shipbuilding yard began to enter into ship repair work.

In the advent of World War II, the U.S. Navy began a Naval Expansion Program. Fore River Shipbuilding was then owned by Bethlehem Steel Corp. and produced more ships than any other U.S. shipyard. During its peak in wartime operations in 1943, Fore River Shipbuilding employed almost 32,000 people.

After the war era, there was a dramatic decrease in demand for naval ships. Bethlehem Steel Corp put Fore River Shipbuilding up for sale in 1963 and it was purchased by General Dynamics Corporation, one of the largest defense contractors in the United States. General Dynamics invested $23 million to expand and improve Fore River Shipbuilding facilities. In the following years, Fore River Shipbuilding was contracted by the U.S. Navy to build a number of different vessels including, nuclear powered submarines and LNG tankers. Fore River Shipbuilding launched its last ship in 1986, and after several failed attempts to restart the site as a shipyard, Fore River Shipyard closed for good.

Asbestos & Fore River Shipbuilding

Fore River Shipbuilding was built several years before the dangers of asbestos exposure were realized, and asbestos was used extensively in Fore River Shipbuilding’s shipyard operations. As a result, Fore River Shipbuilding shipyard workers were exposed to high levels of asbestos for long periods of time. From this prolonged asbestos exposure, many former Fore River Shipbuilding employees have recently developed serious and potentially fatal diseases.

Prior to the 1980s, asbestos was considered an ideal material for ship repair at the Fore River Shipbuilding facility because of its fireproofing ability and resistance to heat and corrosion. Asbestos was used in various locations throughout the Fore River Shipbuilding facility, including:

  • Boilers
  • Turbines
  • Electrical and plumbing insulation
  • Pumps
  • Steam pipe
  • incinerators
  • Gaskets
  • valves
  • Welding blankets
  • Building insulation

Because shipyard workers at the Fore River Shipbuilding yard were unaware of the dangers associated with asbestos, they worked freely with the material. When ships containing asbestos were repaired, asbestos fibers became airborne. In the tight, poorly ventilated areas of ships, airborne asbestos fibers were likely inhaled. Asbestos inhalation can cause cancerous growths and life-threatening diseases, including:

  • Mesothelioma (a cancer of the protective lining that covers most of the body’s internal organs, including the lungs)
  • Lung cancer
  • Asbestosis (lung tissue scarring)
  • Cancer in a number of other organs


Asbestos Injuries at Fore River Shipbuilding – Massachusetts

Although government regulations now restrict the use of asbestos, asbestos-caused diseases can take decades to surface. Consequently, many former Fore River Shipbuilding shipyard workers are just now beginning to develop these diseases.

If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos at the Fore River Shipbuilding yard, contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about your legal rights.

Published November 17, 2011 by