As the owner of shipyards in Morgan City, Louisiana, Conrad Industries has been a major player in the industry since 1948. At about 20 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, their main facility is located on the Atchafalaya River. The shipyard consists of approximately 125,000 square feet of enclosed workspace – 11 total acres with 14 buildings. Equipment located at the site include a submersible barge, 1,700 feet of linear bulkhead, a dry dock and multiple cranes for lifting machinery.
Currently, the yard services a variety of vessel types for the commercial and military sectors. The unique facility allows the shipyard to build boats up to 350 feet long entirely indoors. For ships longer than this, workers can construct different sections within their buildings and piece them together at the dry dock. This allows for easily installing the various piping and wiring systems that modern vessels require.
Up until the mid 1970s the Conrad Industries facility implemented the same techniques used by similar building outfits around the country. One of the most common materials used for pipe insulation and boiler room applications was asbestos. Today, the material is known to be the direct cause of the cancer referred to as mesothelioma. The disease is caused by accumulation of asbestos fibers in the protective membranes that surround vital organs in the chest and abdomen. Prolonged exposure to the materials and dust in shipyards has been noted as one of the main causes for this cancer.
Workers who spent extended periods of time maintaining equipment that includes asbestos are considered to be at heightened risk of developing mesothelioma. One complication, however, is that the cancer can take years or decades to present itself. Long after the initial time of exposure, shipyard workers can become sick with asbestos-related disease. Without thinking of their previous working conditions, many of these individuals don’t correlate their exposure with their current illness.
The working conditions of the mid to late 20th century in shipyards meant large scale exposure by many employees. Any previous handling of the material without proper protective equipment places a person at risk of developing the devastating disease. Remembering early exposure is essential for early detection of mesothelioma. By informing health care physicians, proper treatment can be conducted to hopefully provide for an extended life expectancy.