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Newport News Shipyard

Newport News Shipyard was home to the first dry dock in the world. Located in Newport, Virginia, it opened its doors in 1886 and was one of the leading shipbuilders for many years, contributing many ships to the United States Navy.

The first type of boats that were produced by Newport News Shipyard were gun boats in the late 1800's. However, by the dawn of World War I, Newport News was one of the most productive shipyards in the country and unlike many shipyards that lost business after the war, it remained quite busy. It switched its focus to building railroad cars, yachts and traffic lights to keep operations steady.

The shipyard became an independent company in 1996 and is now the biggest shipyard in the US that is not owned by the government. This is measured by its revenues, its size, as well as its employee base. Today, its primary source of revenue is in the design, repair and construction of nuclear powered air craft carriers and submarines for the US Navy. Today, it is the only company that is building the Navy's nuclear powered aircraft carriers. it is also the only non-government owned shipyard that is responsible for refueling and overhauling the nuclear powered aircraft carriers of the US Navy. Since its inception over one hundred years ago Newport News Shipyard has built a strong reputation, which is derived from building 264 naval ships and 543 commercial vessels.

One of the biggest economic booms for the company was experienced in World War II. Obviously, since the demand for ships and vessels increased when the US became involved in the war, the need for more workers increased. During the war, Newport News Shipyard employed more than 30,000 people. There was a wide variety of responsibilities for these workers, including building cruisers, aircraft carriers, and Liberty Ships. These Liberty Ships were able to be made relatively cheaply and many were leased to the British Navy.

This shipyard was also responsible for building one of the largest passenger ships in the world, the SS United States, which set a trans-Atlantic speed record that has yet to be broken. In later years, Newport News built nuclear submarines and is currently the only location that is equipped to build Nimitz-class super carriers. In 2001, the NNS signed a merger with Northrup Grumman, creating a $4 billion shipyard that is lauded as one of the best in the world.

During the early years of this shipyard, the effects of asbestos were not yet widely known. This harmful substance was used in many different aspects of ship building. People who are most at risk were welders, sheet metal workers, electricians, plumbers, pipe fitters and insulation installers as well as insulation removers. Additionally, a power plant at the facility may be the cause of further asbestos exposure.

Asbestos was not banned until the 1970's, so thousands of people were exposed to this potentially deadly substance while working at the Newport News Shipyard. Unfortunately, there were many employees who were infected with asbestos related illnesses. This can include anything from the cancerous mesothelioma or even asbestosis. Extensive cleanup has ensued over the years and much of the asbestos has been removed from the shipyard.

This should not discredit any of the amazing work that has been done over the years at this shipyard. They are responsible for some of the greatest ship building innovations of our time and set the bar very high for other ship building companies over the years. It broke records and always delivered a quality product that served both the US and British Navy. It is one of the few ship building companies that originated in the 1800s that continues to prosper today.

Ships built by Newport News Shipyard:

Last modified: December 28, 2010.