Description: History of Seward Ship’s Dry Dock in Seward, Alaska, including information about asbestos exposure for shipyard workers.
Seward Ship’s Dry Dock opened in 1973, close to local fishing grounds. It began as a general shipyard to repair and rebuild ships, and had to expand as early as 1974, when the current home for Seward Ship’s Chandlery was built in the Leirer Industrial Park.
Seward Ship’s expanded again in 1979 when it leased and rebuilt a 300-ton marine railway facility at Lowell Point, which operated until 1985. In 1985, Seward Ship’s began servicing and drydocking ships at the Seward Marine Industrial Center, the present site of the shipyard’s operations.
Seward Ship’s Dry Dock is known for being more affordable than larger shipyards on Washington and Oregon, while still providing the same quality service. Located on 11 acres, the shipyard occupies over 35,000 square feet of work area, plus control of the Syncro-Life Drydock facility. Seward Ship’s services marine vessels of all sizes, from rowboats to oil tankers.
Services at Seward Ship’s Dry Dock span a wide range of conversions and major repair work. The shipyard offers fabrication, engineering design assistance, welding, hull and bottom systems, sandblasting, hydro blasting, machine shop work, electrical work, diving, line boring, CPP repair, pump and valve repair, hydraulics, and more.
Though Seward Ship’s Dry Dock began only a few years before asbestos safety practices were instituted, there was still a time when its shipyard employees were exposed to asbestos without the benefit of respiratory gear, protective clothing, or adequate ventilation. Many of the ships repaired at Seward Ship’s Dry Dock were built when asbestos was still in wide use in many shipbuilding components like pipe insulation, flooring, boiler rooms, incinerators, and gaskets.
Asbestos fibers can become lodged in the lungs when they are inhaled, leading to life-threatening illnesses such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer. Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive type of cancer that attacks the mesothelium, or lining that surrounds the lungs. Symptoms of mesothelioma don’t appear for 20 to 50 years following exposure to asbestos, so Seward Ship’s Dry dock workers may appear to be healthy for several more decades before becoming ill.
Doctors often mistake mesothelioma for pneumonia or lung cancer, so shipyard workers need to inform their doctors of their history of asbestos exposure in order to receive a proper diagnosis in a timely manner. The prognosis for mesothelioma is poor, generally with a life expectancy of less than one year. Mesothelioma has no cure, but there are different forms of treatment available.
Seward Ship’s Dry Dock workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma. Anyone who worked at Seward Ship’s Dry Dock and is diagnosed with mesothelioma should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.