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Asbestos Exposures at the Military Shipyard Terminal – Bayonne, New Jersey

The Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey commenced operations in the 1940s. Casually referred to as the United States Ship Yard, this worksite operated from 1942 to 1999. Sitting on 600 acres, the shipyard once boasted the East Coast’s largest dry dock operations. For over two decades, the Military Terminal fulfilled critical naval tasks, with restocking and refueling operations for active navy vessels. Later, the property was assigned to the Army, and used as an active base. In the early 2000s, operations ceased, and the property was sold to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

One primary use of the Navy’s Military Terminal was the storage and disbursement of materials gathered under the government’s National Stockpile program. Raw materials and goods, including numerous asbestos products, were stocked under these programs. When ships arrived at the Military Ocean Terminal for refueling and shipyard repairs, the ship’s stores were replenished. Generally, the military specified the number of spare parts required for each piece of equipment installed on a vessel. For certain pieces of naval machinery, including pumps, valves, turbines, boilers and generators, abundant amounts of asbestos components were required to be stocked. Products, like asbestos gaskets, packing, rope and insulation, were regularly used during the ship’s cruise. Refueling activities at the Military Terminal allowed these onboard materials to be replenished.

Individuals who handled this material were regularly exposed to asbestos. Litigation involving “parts pickers” has shown that the storage, stocking and handling of asbestos products released fibers into the air, which were breathed-in by the storage workers. Sometimes, a ship would require a certain amount of asbestos gaskets upon departure, and these workers would manually count out the gaskets, handling each one before they were delivered to the vessel. Research conducted in laboratories has shown that large quantities of particles of asbestos were released into the air while gaskets and packing were handled.

Other activities at the Military Terminal included shipyard repair work. Critical repairs preventing a naval vessel from continuing on a cruise were handled in Bayonne, often with the equipment being removed and overhauled at the Military Terminal’s workshops. Damaged equipment, like pumps and valves, were inspected and maintained during refueling operations. Generally, tradespeople opened the machines to identify operating issues. This work often required disturbing external asbestos insulation, and removing worn gaskets and packing. Each time this asbestos material was disturbed, shipyard workers were exposed to airborne dust.

To fulfill its core responsibilities, the Bayonne Military Terminal employed tradespeople of all craft, including pipefitters, sheet metal workers, carpenters and lathers. The repair work completed on navy vessels required these individuals to work in cramped, poorly ventilated areas. Boiler rooms and engine rooms containing this equipment were heavily insulated with asbestos. Many of the companies whose machines required shipyard repair designed their equipment with asbestos-component specifications. Today, much of the equipment on these ships that was regularly overhauled at Bayonne’s Military Terminal can be identified through ship records housed at the National Archives.

If you or a loved one worked at the Bayonne Military Terminal, also known as United States Shipyard, and have developed an asbestos-related disease, including mesothelioma or lung cancer, please call today for a free consultation.


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