The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was established at the mouth of the Piscataqua River in Kittery, Maine in 1800. It operated as a naval shipyard building and repairing ships until World War I when it added a new and important role, the construction of submarines. At that time its workforce was nearly 5,000. This figure would grow to more than 25,000 by World War II. The shipyard produced more than 70 submarines during the war, with a record four submarines launched on one day. The Portsmouth Navy Yard quickly became the Navy’s center for submarine design and development. The last submarine built in a public shipyard, the USS Sand Lance, was launched in 1969 at the yard. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s current primary mission is the overhaul, repair and modernization of the Los Angeles class of nuclear submarines. It currently employs about 4,400 civilians and is station for 82 naval personnel.

Unfortunately, through much of the twentieth century, the employees of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard were exposed to large quantities of asbestos.  Most of the ships and submarines built and serviced at the shipyard were powered by steam.  The boilers, reactors, turbines and miles of pipes on the vessels were insulated with asbestos and asbestos containing materials.  There were other uses of asbestos on ships and submarines, including gaskets, cement, electrical equipment and fireproof bulkheads, or walls.  During construction and maintenance of vessels, insulators, electricians, plumbers, welders and pipefitters may have been exposed to these asbestos-containing materials.  Those who also worked near or in the vicinity of those who repaired and maintained asbestos-containing materials were also at risk for exposure to asbestos fibers.

Having represented workers from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for more than 35 years, attorneys at Thornton Law Firm have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the type and variety of asbestos-containing products to which our clients were exposed.  If you or a loved one once worked at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma or lung cancer, please contact us for a free case evaluation.