History of the Defoe Shipyard

The Defoe Shipyard, also known as the Defoe Shipbuilding Company, was established in 1905 in Bay City, Michigan. In its early years, the Defoe Shipyard built a number of small fishing vessels and gasoline powered boats for commercial industries. In 1917, the Defoe Shipyard began to secure government contracts and received an order to build five torpedo chasers for the U.S. Navy. 

The Defoe Shipyard continued to build U.S. Naval ships into World War I and played a significant role in contributing to the naval war fleet. Following the First World War, the Defoe Shipyard was involved in building a number of luxury yachts, steam turbine cutters for the U.S. Coast Guard, and specialty crafts for commercial interests. During World War II, ship production was at a record high and Defoe Shipyard operations were at their peak. During this time, the Defoe Shipyard built nearly 150 U.S. Navy ships and boasted that they could complete a 173 foot patrol craft in just one week. Wartime ships built by the Defoe Shipyard included:

  • minesweepers,
  • fast transports
  • patrol crafts
  • landing crafts
  • destroyer escorts

Following the World Wars, there was a dramatic decrease in government demand for ship construction. For some time, the Defoe Shipyard focused its efforts on building ships for commercial industries and repair work. The Defoe Shipyard’s location severely limited the size of ships that it could construct and service. Due to an inability to work with larger ships and a vast decrease in service contracts, the Defoe Shipyard was forced to close in 1976.

Asbestos & the Defoe Shipyard

A large number of former Defoe Shipyard workers are at a great risk for developing serious health complications from exposure to asbestos. Prior to the 1980s, asbestos material was used extensively by the Defoe Shipyard in its daily operations. Because workers were unaware of the serious health risks associated with asbestos, shipyard workers were unprotected around the dangerous material. The Defoe Shipyard closed just before government regulations restricting asbestos use were established and the health dangers made public.  

Asbestos material was ideal for ship repair because of its ability to fireproof materials, resist corrosion, and withstand high temperatures. However, when asbestos materials are manipulated, a fibrous dust becomes airborne and can be inhaled. Asbestos dust, when inhaled, can lodge in the protective lining that covers most of the body’s internal organs, including the heart, stomach, and lungs. Asbestos exposure can cause various life-threatening illnesses, including a fatal cancer known as Mesothelioma. 

At the Defoe Shipyard, the following ship components and products contained asbestos:

  • Boilers
  • Turbines
  • Electrical and plumbing insulation
  • Pumps
  • Steam pipe
  • Incinerators
  • Gaskets
  • Valves
  • Floor and ceiling tiles
  • Welding blankets
  • Building insulation

Asbestos Injuries at the Defoe Shipyard – Michigan

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

Published November 17, 2011 by