Louisiana’s Bollinger Shipyard has been in business since 1946, and has remained family owned and operated since its founding. Based in Lockport, it was originally meant to be a repair facility. Eventually, though, it expanded into the conversion and construction of U.S. Navy ships.

At first, Bollinger Shipyard worked on small and midsized vessels, but expanded to make bigger ships as time went on. One of its large projects was the construction of the barge Derrick, which had a lifting cargo capacity of 115 tons. Tankers and other supply vessels were built by Bollinger, including ones that could handle gaseous cargo. Liquid-carrying tankers made to carry fuel have been another specialty of this shipyard. Finally, Bollinger opened several other shipyards and repair facilities throughout Louisiana.

Working for Bollinger carries unique hazards. As a shipyard, the workers often deal with many hazardous substances, including asbestos. Asbestos has long been commonly used in ships for its natural fireproofing capability. It also works well as insulation. Ships, especially older ones, are laden with asbestos in their ceiling panels, wall tiles, and other such places. The toxic substance is even used in coatings in the boiler room, in gaskets, and in pumps. While this makes it hard for the ship to burn, it presents a very dangerous working environment.

Repairing ships is especially hazardous because it often requires direct contact with asbestos-laden materials. During an overhaul, it’s easy for dust to be released as wall panels and ceiling tiles are cut. Working on pumps and other parts that have asbestos gaskets is another way shipyard employees become exposed.

One of the hazards presented by asbestos exposure is the possibility of coming down with mesothelioma. This rare form of cancer is a direct result of prolonged asbestos exposure. It can affect the linings of the abdomen, lungs, and heart. As with most cancer, the prognosis is best if the disease is detected as soon as possible. Those who work at Bollinger Shipyard or any other shipyard, or have done so in the past, should take steps to determine if they’ve been exposed to asbestos so they can be properly screened for mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.

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