Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation
Savannah Shipyards Inc. began building a facility in Savannah, GA around the start of the 1940's. The site was approved by the Maritime Commission, and construction was well underway at the point when the United States became involved in World War II. As Americans joined the war, German submarines began to seek out and torpedo the ships that made up the Marine Merchant fleet. New ships were needed to replace the demolished crafts, and the USMC took every step possible to get the vessels produced quickly. They redefined the contract with Savannah and gave them drastically increased expectations as to when the facility was to be finished.
By 1942 the USMC was not happy with the progress of the facility, and repealed the contract they had with Savannah. It was then awarded to the Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation, which was expected to complete it promptly and start producing large cargo vessels immediately. In March of 1943 their first ship, the George Handley, was officially launched. Throughout the rest of the year, more ships were produced and by April the corporation won a contract to build C1-type vessels and AP-type transports.
The USMC had not heard the last of Savannah Shipyards Inc. The company sued for what they considered to be an illegal seizure of their facility. When the case went to trial, Savannah came out as the victor and was given a large sum to make up for their loss.
This was not to be the only ordeal that occurred at the Georgia shipyard. The workers who were hired to help build vessels with the Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation spent thousands of man hours on every ship, and each one required a large amount of insulating materials. Such materials were made primarily out of the mineral asbestos, which was considered to be among the most beneficial natural resources ever discovered in the United States. That is, until it was found to be toxic.
Asbestos is naturally poisonous, and exposure to it can be deadly. Employees at the shipyard slowly developed symptoms of respiratory disorders and diseases over several years and even decades. Lung cancer and Mesothelioma were very prominent for both the workers at the facility and the sailors who crewed the ships that were produced there. Most of these conditions have no cure, and many lives were lost as a result.
Like so many of the shipbuilding facilities that were built during the second World War, the Savanna site was closed down when the war finally ended. Many of the ships that were built there had been destroyed, sold or scrapped completely. All traces of asbestos were eventually removed, but by then thousands of people had come into contact with the hazardous substance, and many lives were forever altered as a result.
Last modified: December 09, 2009.