Bender Shipbuilding

Bender Shipbuilding of Mobile, Alabama is a privately held company with a long history of being one of the major employers located at this Gulf of Mexico port. Established in 1928, Bender Shipbuilding was originally known as Bender Welding and Machine Company. The firm changed to its current name after 1980. Bender Shipbuilding is a full service shipyard with dry dock facilities and the capability to repair and convert existing vessels. New ships are also fabricated at this shipyard and this privately held company also engages in selling surplus marine equipment on the commercial market.

Few full service shipyards remain in the US, but Bender Shipbuilding has managed to succeed throughout its history. During World War II, the facility was vital to the naval war effort as a production plant for the famous Liberty Ships. These ships were produced at a rate of one every forty-three days during the height of the war years. Thousands of skilled workers from Alabama and beyond were employed to keep production at full throttle. As the need for replacement ships increased due to combat losses in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, unskilled laborers were hired and trained to increase the yard’s capacity. This was a boom time for Mobile and for the firm as the ranks of needed workers swelled the local population.

A common material used in ship construction at the time was asbestos. This material was used to line steam pipes and boiler rooms to prevent or contain fire damage in cases of emergency. The effects of asbestos fibers were not fully understood at the time but exposure to asbestos has since been linked to incidences of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs, and other pulmonary disorders. Asbestos use was prevalent in shipbuilding until fairly recently.

Bender Shipbuilding has been in business for as long as the understanding of the hazards of asbestos exposure has evolved. Asbestos was stored and used at the company’s physical plant and property, and the many workers employed there over the years could not help but be exposed to it. Loose asbestos fibers lodged in these workers’ lungs with the likelihood of causing mesothelioma and other lung diseases. This could be due to being involved in new construction or in the refurbishing of older ships’ equipment and superstructure. Bender Shipbuilding is still a major employer in the Mobile area, carrying on its original mission.