Alabama Dry Dock and Shipping Company (ADDSCO), located in Mobile, Alabama, was once a thriving shipyard during wartime. Its use of asbestos, however, put thousands of workers at risk. Over time, many former workers of the large shipyard developed related illnesses, and the company had to pay them compensation.
ADDSCO formed when two cousins combined several small dry docks in 1916, eventually making it one of the largest shipyards in the nation.
As the shipyards grew throughout the years, it created over 30,000 jobs by the 1940s. The company eventually became the city of Mobile’s largest employer.
ADDSCO put its name on the map in part due to the Liberty ships. The shipyard built twenty Liberty ships, which were well-known during World War II.
Initially, Liberty ships were known as “Ugly Duckling” vessels due to their strange appearance, but their launch became a cause for celebration in 1941 when officials announced the launch as “Liberty Fleet Day.” Today, only four Liberty ships remain. While three of the ships are preserved, one is docked at an Alaskan fish processing plant.
The shipyard also built 102 oil tankers. ADDSCO built the “Arickaree,” a tanker that went on to become one of the largest ships constructed along the Gulf Coast. Further, ADDSCO was responsible for refitting over 2,0000 combat vessels.
ADDSCO was also known for its segregation practices. The shipyard employed mostly white men. When the company hired black workers, it generally gave them lower-level jobs. While white men were typically employed as electricians and welders, most black workers worked as assistants to welders and electricians or general laborers.
As the shipyard continued to grow, it hired more than 2,500 women. Around 100 white women worked as welders. In 1941, ADDSCO began hiring black women for non-skilled positions.
By 1942, President Roosevelt’s Fair Employment Practices Committee pushed to make companies give black workers a chance to work in skilled positions. Yet, by 1943, the shipyard still had segregated facilities. Eventually, around a dozen black workers were upgraded to welders, which subsequently caused a riot. The National Guard stepped in to ensure peace.
How Did ADDSCO Put Workers at Risk?
Regardless of race or gender, the company did not discriminate when it came to putting its shipyard workers at risk of asbestos exposure.
During the shipyard’s prime, it relied on asbestos to create ships. At the time, asbestos was used widely across most shipyards for its ease of use, affordability, and resistance to both fire and heat.
ADDSCO used asbestos in everything from bunkers, boiler rooms, ship parts, tools, and more. Many workers were with the company anywhere from thirty to forty years, inhaling asbestos fibers much of the time.
It was literally impossible for employers to avoid contact with asbestos, although they had no clue at the time they were being exposed to a toxin.
The workers reportedly had no protection and inhaled tiny asbestos fibers without knowledge or warning that the microscopic, odorless fibers could cause significant damage and end up potentially killing them one day.
Years later, many workers started falling ill to asbestos-related illnesses, such as mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer. In turn, lawsuits followed.
Asbestos Lawsuits Related to ADDSCO
Generally, the manufacturers of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) that shipped the products to ADDSCO were in the hot seat for liability. Most manufacturers were well-aware of asbestos dangers but continued to ship ACMs.
However, during the 1980s, a number of workers filed a class-action lawsuit against ADDSCO. The plaintiffs included boiler workers, insulators, pipefitters, and various other workers. The plaintiffs’ jobs put them in constant exposure to asbestos.
A judge dismissed the class-action lawsuit, ruling that maritime law didn’t cover it. Others were successful after filing lawsuits against the manufacturers.
Regardless, ADDSCO failed to keep its workers safe and ended up using a pension reversion worth $1 million to pay fines for putting people at risk while working, according to an in-depth report by The New York Times.
At the end of World War II, the employment rate dropped significantly at ADDSCO, and by 1967, it became a repair facility for rescue ships.
The shipyard continued business until the 1980s. In 1988, it shut down permanently and was sold off to different companies.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.