The USNS Cumberland was a Suamico-class tanker that entered service as an auxiliary ship but was eventually refitted as an oiler and then a floating power station. It was constructed and launched in 1944 by the Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company For her first 12 years, the Cumberland worked under the Maritime Commission under the name Fort Cumberland. In 1956, the Cumberland was acquired and renamed by the U.S. Navy, being redesignated the USNS Cumberland at that time. The Cumberland operated with the navy as a fleet supply oiler until the rise of the Vietnam War required the ship to take on a new role in 1966.

That year, the Cumberland underwent extensive overhaul and conversion at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company’s facility in Newport News, Virginia. The Army required reliable ground power services at that time, prompting its refitting as a floating power station. The Cumberland served out Vietnam supplying shore bases with ship-generated power. After the U.S. exit from Vietnam, the ship was deemed unnecessary and decommissioned. She was eventually sold for scrap.

Asbestos in Navy Ships

Although an essential component of the naval fleet, many of these tankers also posed a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.

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