National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) is one of the three shipyards in the Marine Systems division of General Dynamics Corp. This yard has been responsible for building support and auxiliary support ships for the US Navy, as well as dry cargo carriers and oil tankers for commercial shipping companies since the 1950s. It is based in San Diego Bay, CA. (Nassco.com).
The grounds of NASSCO are a modern industrial facility of about 150 acres. At this time, NASSCO employs more than 4700 workers, such as welders, riggers, engineers and boilermakers.
Asbestos Exposure at NASSCO
Like most other ship building yards in the US, NASSCO has a long history of exposing workers to asbestos. Ships at NASSCO were built and repaired with asbestos products and parts well into the 1970s. A lot of the insulation and many of the pipes, boilers, ceiling tiles, flooring, joint compounds and epoxies had some amount of asbestos that exposed workers to health risks. In some situations, these parts and products were taken out and reinstalled during routine ship maintenance.
It was not only shipyard employees who were exposed to asbestos-containing products. The NASSCO installation also employed many contractors and subcontractors who were involved with products that contained asbestos, which created dangerous working conditions for countless workers. It is unknown how many workers eventually got mesothelioma from working at NASSCO; not every person who gets the cancer files a lawsuit. Many die without any compensation, and sometimes the death certificate only lists ‘cancer’ as the cause of death.
Because the many dangers of asbestos were not known until the 1970s, many workers at the shipyard did not have respiratory equipment or protective clothing. That is why many workers became ill with asbestosis and mesothelioma. Asbestos-related injuries can take as long as 40 years to develop, so it is possible that former NASSCO workers could get sick in the future.
If you worked at any shipyard in the past and are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, it is recommended to talk to a mesothelioma attorney in your area. You may be able to file a claim against the company you worked for.
Studies Confirm Shipyard Workers at Higher Risk
A study called Asbestos and Ship Building: Fatal Consequences, which was released by Ulster Medical Society in 2008, revealed that shipyard workers have a higher mortality rate from asbestosis that is 16 times greater than other jobs. (NIH.gov). A large number of those deaths were on the East and West coasts of the US where much ship building was completed.
The number of workers in shipyards declined after WWII, falling from 1.7 million to about 200,000 in the 1970s when asbestos use greatly declined.
Studies also reveal that US military veterans have been hit hard by being exposed to asbestos. It is estimated that 30% of all lawsuits for mesothelioma are filed by military veterans, and many of them were employed by Naval shipyards such as NASSCO.
NASSCO Subject of Many Mesothelioma Lawsuits
NASSCO has been the defendant in many lawsuits that allege the shipyard contaminated many employees with asbestos, and also the families of workers. One particular case was that of Aida Savelesky that claimed occupational exposure to asbestos to her husband led to her mesothelioma. The case is known as Aida Savelesky v. Allied Packing and Supply, Inc.
The woman actually had two complaints against NASSCO. First, she alleged that her husband was exposed to high levels of asbestos fibers and various other toxic substances while he worked at NASSCO. She also said these fibers were on his skin, hair, shoes and clothes and that she suffered from secondary exposure due to her husband’s exposure.
In the other claim, Savelesky made the allegation that NASSCO was negligent in selecting, supplying and distributing products that contained asbestos. That is what exposed her to the deadly asbestos fibers, she claimed.
In 2011, the US District Court for the Northern District of California handed the case over to the Superior Court for the County of Alameda for consideration.
If you or a loved one worked at NASSCO or another shipyard and have developed an asbestos-related condition, it is recommended to contact a mesothelioma attorney today. You could be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering and related costs.
Other NASSCO Lawsuits
NASSCO has been involved in other lawsuits that do not involve asbestos or mesothelioma. The company has gone through several challenging suits involving the union employees at NASSCO. In 2008, after 16 years with no labor contract, more than 2300 workers at the shipyard, who were represented by Boilermakers Local 1998, ratified an agreement with the company. The new labor agreement and lawsuit settlement occurred after several weeks of difficult negotiations. The lawsuit came to pass because the company failed to provide workers with rest and meal periods according to California law. The union showed documents during the lawsuit that showed three years of violations of California law. Under this settlement, the workers shared cash payments of $14 million. They also received a boost in pension money of $5.2 million.
After the settlement was agreed to, the two sides agreed to a contract of five years that provides basic union rights and also wage improvements. Wages were increased in each year for five years, and all members of the union also get signing bonuses. Also, the company now pays for shop stewards, health and safety reps, check off for union dues, and an arbitration and grievance procedure. There also is more involvement of the union in new hire orientation. (Boilermakers.org).
The National Steel and Shipbuilding Company or NASSCO has three major shipyards that are located in San Diego, Norfolk and Mayport. The origin of the company goes back to 1905 when it was started as a machine shop and foundry called California Iron Works. In 1922, that company was taken over by a bank and was then called National Iron Works. It later took the name NASSCO.
NASSCO started to build cargo ships for commercial enterprises in 1959, and eventually began to build oil tankers in the Alaska class. The most well known tanker that it built was the Exxon Valdez, which was built in 1986. That ship was involved in a major oil spill in Alaska that made international news. In the 1990s, NASSCO won several Navy contracts and began to build support ships, trailerships and sealift ships.
The ship yards at NASSCO are able to build major commercial ships and tankers, as well as auxiliary ships for the Navy that are up to 1000 feet long. The main shipyard is on San Diego Bay and has a 35 foot channel depth. To get to NASSCO, ships need to pass under the Coronado Bridge, which has 195 feet vertical clearance. The shipyard has 80 acres of land and also has 46 acres of water.
- NASSCO Workers Ratify First Agreement and Settle Lawsuit. (2008). Retrieved from https://boilermakers.org/resources/news/NASSCO_workers_ratify_first_agreement_settle_lawsuit
- NASSCO Profile. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://nassco.com/suppliers/doing-business-with-us/environmental-procedures/
- Asbestos and Ship Building: Fatal Consequences. (2008). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2604477/
- NASSCO Ship Building Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://nassco.com/products/construction/government-construction/