History of the Newport News Naval Shipyard

The Newport News Naval Shipyard was founded in 1886 as a shipbuilding and repair facility in Newport, Virginia. The first ships produced by the Newport News Naval Shipyard were gun boats, war ships, and dreadnoughts for the U.S. Navy. In 1907, when President Theodore Roosevelt sent the U.S. Navy’s “Great White Fleet”? on an around-the-world voyage, seven of the sixteen battleships sent were built by the Newport News Naval Shipyard.

At the start of the First World War, the Newport News Naval Shipyard was a thriving shipbuilding facility with a rapid rate of ship production. Between the years 1918 and 1920, the Newport News Naval Shipyard built 25 naval destroyers. The Newport News Naval Shipyard also delivered their first aircraft carrier to the Navy in 1934 and was later contracted by the Navy to continue building these vessels.

During World War II, the Newport News Naval Shipyard reached its peak of operation because of demand for Navy ships. The Newport News Naval Shipyard built many naval vessels including “Liberty Ships”? for the U.S. government’s Emergency Shipbuilding Program. At the time, the Newport News Naval Shipyard employed more than 30,000 shipyard workers to keep up with the wartime demand. Following WWII, the U.S. Navy awarded the Newport News Naval Shipyard an E Pennant for its enormous contribution during the war.

After World Wars I and II, the Newport News Naval Shipyard began manufacturing more diverse vessels, including passenger ships, tankers, and submarines. In 1959, the Newport News Naval Shipyard completed the first nuclear powered submarine and ballistic missile submarine. Today, the Newport News Naval Shipyard is one of only two shipyards that build nuclear powered submarines and aircrafts for the U.S. Navy.  In 2001, the Newport News Naval Shipyard merged with Northrop Grumman and remains the largest privately-owned shipyard in the country. The bulk of operations at the Newport News Naval Shipyard consist of the construction, repair, and overhaul of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear powered vessels. The Newport News Naval Shipyard is renowned for its quality of work and for building 264 naval ships and 543 commercial vessels.  

Asbestos & the Newport News Naval Shipyard

A large number of the Newport News Naval Shipyard workers are at a great risk of serious health complications from asbestos exposure. Many Newport News Naval Shipyard workers who were employed at the shipyard before the 1980s were exposed to high levels of asbestos.

For many years, asbestos was used, without knowledge of the dangers it posed, in various shipyard operations and machinery. Asbestos material was used in ship building to insulate boilers, steam pipes, incinerators, and other forms of ship machinery. Asbestos material was ideal for these uses because of its ability to resist corrosion and high temperatures. In addition, asbestos was used to fireproof ships and as an acoustic material built into ships to make them quieter.

The health risks associated with asbestos were not well known until the 1970s, and no special precautions were taken at the shipyards to prevent asbestos inhalation. For many years, ship builders, crews, and longshoreman at the Newport News Naval Shipyard were all heavily exposed to asbestos dust, which they inhaled while working in poorly ventilated areas.

While the US government currently regulates asbestos in the shipyard industry, the health complications from previous asbestos exposure are surfacing. If you have been exposed to asbestos while working at the Newport News Naval Shipyard, you are at major risk of developing severe and potentially fatal asbestos related diseases that can include:

  • 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 internal organs

Authorities estimate that over 100,000 shipyard workers have died from asbestos related diseases, including those who worked for the Newport News Naval Shipyard. In recent years, a number of shipyard companies, including the Newport News Naval Shipyard have been the targets of lawsuits brought by shipyard workers injured by asbestos exposure.

Asbestos Injuries at the Newport News Naval Shipyard – Virginia

If you or a loved one has ever worked for the Newport News Naval Shipyard, you may have been exposed to asbestos. Talk to your physician and know the symptoms of asbestos related diseases. Contact one of our asbestos injury attorneys today for a free and confidential case evaluation and to learn about seeking compensation for the damages to your health caused from asbestos exposure.

Published November 17, 2011 by