Moore Dry Dock Company built ships for both the 1st and 2nd World Wars. In between the wars, much of the company’s work involved ship repairs. They also built dredges, hangars, steel factory buildings, and office buildings.
Moore Dry Dock Company was also instrumental in building the caissons that enabled the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge which links Sausalito to San Francisco and the Bay Bridge which links San Francisco and Oakland.
When the U.S. entered World War II, Moore Dry Dock Company built submarines, hospital ships, combat loaded cargo ships, refrigerated cargo ships and long range cargo ships. They also repaired ships at the incredible rate of one repair every 1-1/2 hours. Other shipyards broke building records; Moore Dry Dock broke repair records.
Moore Dry Dock Company stopped building ships after the war, but repair operations continued. In 1950, the company was the site of union picket action when sailors had a dispute with a ship owner while his ship was in dry dock. This led to the Moore Dry Dock Standards for Primary Picketing at a secondary site, a ruling that continues to shape rulings to this day.
Moore Dry Dock Company finally closed its doors in 1961, but not before a significant number of employees were exposed to the most potent hazard in shipbuilding during the company’s existence, asbestos.
Asbestos was the material of choice for insulating pipes, boilers, fireproofing spray-on insulation, firebrick in furnaces, among common uses. The men who built and installed the boilers and the engines, machinist mates, ship fitters, pipefitters, firemen, and electrician’s mates faced asbestos exposure routinely.
The main issue with asbestos exposure is the significant risk of developing mesothelioma, a cancer of the pleura which covers the lungs (known as pleural mesothelioma). If the asbestos cancer isn’t caught early, mesothelioma life expectancy can be as little as 6 months to a year. Treatment options are improving as the prevalence of this cancer has reached significant proportions, leading to more research into its treatment. Diagnostic techniques for early stages of this type of cancer are also improving.
Asbestosis, which is not cancerous, also poses significant health risks. The symptoms of shortness of breath, dry cough, inability to sleep comfortably because of breathing difficulties, and night sweats are often misdiagnosed as other health issues unless the doctor is aware of a patient’s prior exposure to asbestos.
For this reason it is important for anyone who has worked in the ship repair or building industry prior to 1987 to make sure that their physician knows this fact.