The U.S. Navy built the Rough and Ready Island Ship Repair complex at the Port of Stockton as an inland repair facility. The Port of Stockton was ideal for this as the San Joaquin River Delta flows directly into the San Francisco Bay.
The port opened in 1933, after the river was dredged to 26-ft. deep. In 1934, railway access was installed right on the docks. Approval to dredge to 35-ft. deep was gained in 1935. When World War II expanded to include the U.S., the port was already a thriving entity. The rail lines that connected all three major railroad companies made the site a logical place for a high-traffic inland port and vessel repair facility.
The U.S. Army leased 257 acres and the port built additional wharves so the port could berth an additional 13 vessels. The U.S. Navy annexed Rough and Ready Island as a supply depot, and auxiliary ship repair site. The construction of the site began late in the war, making the site redundant almost immediately.
The Navy leased Rough and Ready Island to private groups who used the facilities to repair both naval and commercial vessels. Eventually the entire property came back under the control of the Port of Stockton.
The first port expansion after the war involved building an oil terminal. Since that time, the port has added additional warehouses and wharves. When containers became popular, the port chose to focus on handling materials that are not easily containerized. Specializing in this manner has kept the port profitable to this day. It is the largest inland seaport in California.
During its over 70 years of existence, workers at the Port of Stockton (and Rough and Ready Island Naval depot) handled many commodities. Because of the ship repair facilities and oil terminal, asbestos was used extensively in many areas. Exposure to asbestos occurred while building facilities and maintaining them.
The reason asbestos exposure causes so much concern relates to the type of damage asbestos causes when inhaled. This mineral is fibrous and glass-like. It breaks off into tiny dust particles that become airborne very easily. When inhaled, these particles cause irritation and scarring in the lungs. Asbestos is now known to be linked with mesothelioma, a cancer of the mesothelium which lines all the internal organs.
Anyone who has worked around asbestos should notify their doctor of this fact, so that symptoms of asbestosis or mesothelioma are not mistaken for other common upper respiratory problems or heart problems.
The most common symptoms of asbestosis are breathlessness, coughing, and mild fever, tightness in the chest, insomnia and loss of appetite. As you can see, these symptoms aren't unique. It is very important to be proactive when visiting a doctor.