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Incorporated on February 7, 1899 by financier Isaac Rice, Electric Boat Company was founded with the goal of completing a submersible vessel designed and developed by John Philip Holland. Named for its creator, the Holland was adopted by the United States Navy as the world’s first practical functioning submarine. This event not only initiated the origins of the United States Submarine Force, but placed Electric Boat at the forefront of submarine technology as the leading global innovator in the design, construction, and lifecycle support of these vessels for the Navy and maritime industry.

In 1911, Electric Boat expanded its operations with the acquisition of the New London Ship and Engine Company in Groton, Connecticut. Today, this Groton shipyard serves as the company’s headquarters and functions as the base for submarine design, engineering, assembly, test, and delivery. The time period during World War II (1914-1918) resulted in orders from the U.S. Navy for the construction of 85 submarines. Electric Boat later produced an additional 74 submarines prompted by the occurrence of World War II during the years 1941-1945. In 1952, Electric Boat was acquired by General Dynamics, its parent company to this day. The years to follow would be witness to a series of firsts for Electric Boat: the launching of the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the Nautilus, in 1954; the commissioning of the U.S.S. George Washington—the Navy’s first ballistic-missile submarine—in 1959; the launching of the Sturgeon—the first of a new class of attack submarines—in 1966; and a contract in 1972 for the construction of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine—the first to be built in a modular fashion. As Electric Boat continued to grow, it established its Quonset Point Facility in Rhode Island in 1973 with production initiating the following year. This location would come to serve as the company’s manufacturing facility for the production of submarine hull cylinders, which once constructed, are then transported to Groton or another Electric Boat facility for completion. Subsequent years were marked by the completion of the Seawolf—the fastest, quietest and most armed submarine worldwide— in 1996, in addition to a series of billion dollar contracts to design and build new classes of submarines. Today, as it stands upon over a century of experience supported by an employee base of 10,500 individuals, Electric Boat maintains its reputation as a pioneer of innovation in submarine technology.

Products Used by Electric Boat Corporation that Contained Asbestos

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral with extreme strength and resistance to heat, fire, and chemical corrosion, was once used extensively in shipyards prior to the mid-1970s at which point it became recognized as the carcinogenic substance responsible for the harmful, and often fatal, lung ailments—asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma—experienced by those employed in trades involved in the shipbuilding industry.

Aboard ships and throughout shipyards, asbestos was commonplace. Utilized in a vast array of settings, from boiler and engine rooms to mess halls and sleeping quarters, it would have been near impossible to avoid exposure in this environment. While Electric Boat did not manufacture asbestos-containing products, it did employ the use of such products which resulted in numerous incidents of exposure by its employees, contractors, and visitors to its facilities.

The products used at Electric Boat Corporation that may have contained asbestos include, but are not limited to:

  • Floor and ceiling tiles
  • Adhesives
  • Surfacing materials
  • Thermal system insulation
  • Steam lines
  • Pipe lagging
  • Electrical cabling
  • Mastic
  • Valve packing
  • Gaskets
  • Electrical stuffing
  • Tube packing
  • Boilers

Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

It is estimated that over 4.5 million workers came into contact with 25 million tons of asbestos in U.S. shipyards between the years of 1930 and 1978. With regard to occupational exposure at Electric Boat, numerous documented court cases identify welders, shipfitters, carpenters, machinists, and inspectors who have testified as having been exposed to “significant amounts of asbestos.” Additional occupations at risk for exposure may include navy personnel, boiler mechanics, engine workers, pipefitters, electricians, and those in the construction trades, such as painters and jointers. Secondhand exposure by family members of Electric Boat workers was also a likely occurrence as asbestos fibers and dust were often transported on clothes from the workplace into the home environment.

Since mesothelioma symptoms often remain latent for as many as 20-50 years, many workers are not diagnosed until several years after they have left their occupation where the exposure occurred. In other cases, present day occupational exposure can result when renovations or demolitions of ships or at shipyards takes place and the asbestos fibers are released and inhaled from components and/or products that had been installed in years prior to asbestos being restricted. For these reasons, it is important to seek medical consultation and an appropriate course of action for diagnosis and treatment if you suspect that you have been a victim of asbestos exposure in the workplace.

Recent News

Today Electric Boat recognizes the hazardous health effects of asbestos and takes precautionary measures to prevent and/or limit occupational exposure. The Contractor Safety, Health, and Regulators Manual produced by the company (and updated as of 2008) mandates, in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, that all individuals be informed if the area in which they work contains any asbestos materials. The manual also requires that any work area with known asbestos materials that is targeted for construction be surveyed, and that all asbestos be properly identified and removed, if necessary, prior to the initiation of any contracted work in that workspace. Furthermore, red danger zones are posted when potential hazards, such as asbestos, are present in an effort to alert individuals and prevent exposure.

General Dynamics, the parent company of Electric Boat, reported 2010 year-end earnings of $2.62 billion, an increase from $2.39 billion for 2009. The Marine Systems group of General Dynamics, which includes Electric Boat, cited that 2010 year-end revenues were up nearly 5% to $6.7 billion as compared to the preceding year.

Written By

Linda Molinari Editor in Chief

Linda Molinari has more than 15 years of experience as a writer and advocate for mesothelioma patients and a ban on asbestos.

Full Bio Editorial Guidelines
Reviewed By

Jennifer Lucarelli Legal Advisor and Contributor

Jennifer Lucarelli is a partner at the law firm of Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney & Meisenkothen, specializing in asbestos litigation.

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