Astoria Voyage Repair is a subsidiary of Portland, Oregon-based Cascade General, located at the Portland Shipyard at a 60 acre facility along the Willamette River. Cascade in turn is operated by Vigor Industrial LLC, a major West Coast provider of maintenance, repair and construction services for marine industries ranging from the U.S. Navy to locally-based small commercial fishermen.
The Astoria Voyage Repair Station itself is located in the coastal town of Astoria, which sits on Oregon’s northwest corner near the mouth of the Columbia River. The facility is equipped for on-site marine repairs as well as those requiring travel, and includes workboats and mobile marine cranes.
The Astoria Voyage Repair facility is extensive; three piers are adjacent to the primary facility. At a depth of 40 feet, it is able to service vessels up to 1,100 feet in length.
While the workers at Astoria Voyage Repair are prepared to perform any and all necessary boat repairs, this division specializes in emergency topside repairs. Additional services include machine work, pipe fitting and installation, electrical repairs, rigging, and blasting and coating. Clients’ ships range from local tugboats to oil industry tankers; their service area stretches from Southern California to the Gulf of Alaska.
Use of Asbestos
Although Astoria Voyage Repair has been careful to abide by industry regulations throughout its history, asbestos products were used extensively throughout the shipbuilding industry prior to the 1980s. As was the case in other facilities around the country, asbestos was used to insulate boilers and walls as well as turbines, and used to coat pipes and conduits as well as the fabrication of gaskets for pipe and boiler fittings. Asbestos was also to be found in turbine covers and pumps, fire doors and ceiling tiles.
Historical Background On Marine Asbestos Applications
For those who work and live aboard sea-going vessels, fire is more greatly feared than sinking. The reason is that shipboard fires tend to burn very quickly, offering little opportunity for escape. Because of this, asbestos was used extensively in ship construction starting in the 1930s. Over a five-decade period, asbestos sprays were used on virtually every component of a vessel.
On the other hand, the closed quarters below deck created an environment in which shipyard workers and sailors alike were exposed to massive amounts of asbestos fibers during brief periods of time.
The dangers of asbestos exposure, particularly the risk of asbestosis (a scaring of the lung tissue) and mesothelioma (A rare but fatal form of asbestos cancer that affects the lining of the organs), were well known by 1940, when C.S. Stephenson issued a memo to Rear Admiral Ross McIntire as Navy Commander for Preventive Medicine. In the memo, it was indicated that sufficient safeguards for shipyard workers were not in place. Furthermore, the Roosevelt Administration chose not to inform workers about the risks for fear that needed war production might be compromised.
The Federal government finally issued a series of standards intended to protect the shipyard workforce from the effects of asbestos dust in 1943. However, it would be another thirty years before these standards were consistently enforced.