Headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina, Detyen’s Shipyards includes a number of full-service shipyards which specialize in repairing ships. The company was founded in 1962 by William Detyens, whose background was in the merchant marines. It is one of the largest repair facilities for ships along the Eastern Seaboard. The company also sells, repairs and upgrades ships for foreign militaries, including those of Saudi Arabia, Portugal, Turkey and Egypt.
Since its founding, Detyen’s has been closely linked to the US Navy and, in the 1990’s, the company leased the shipyard that had been part of the Charleston Naval Facility on Cooper River after this facility cut back on its operations. This new Detyen’s facility acts as its corporate headquarters and includes machine shops, cranes and three docks. The company specializes in repairing commercial shipping vessels, including cruise ships operated by Carnival Cruise Lines. In addition to the facility at the Charleston Naval Facility, Detyen’s has a facility in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, which is located along the Wando River near Charleston. Due to steady growth, Deyten’s projects that it will employ close to 800 workers in the coming years. The company employs workers in positions such as welder, pipe fitter, and painter.
The company’s current facilities can accommodate crews of up to 500 while a ship is repaired. The company owns three floating cranes and ten pier cranes. Detyen’s is known for using a method called high-pressure water blasting instead of the more traditional grit blasting to clean ships and remove residue. This newer method is considered safer and cleaner and can be done in any weather.
Like many other shipbuilding facilities, Detyen’s Shipyards used asbestos until the substance was largely banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1989. With cloth-like qualities and a natural resistance to heat and fire, asbestos was a commonly used substance in many industrial processes. In addition to being a form of insulation, it was used to make fire and heat resistant clothing and accessories worn by workers, such as gloves, aprons and hats.
The risks of asbestos were known as early as the 1920’s. However, most industries and employers either withheld this information or were slow to act on it. Indeed, it was not until the 1970’s and 1980’s that industry and the government began taking decisive action to restrict exposure to asbestos and to adequately inform employees of the risks of exposure. As a result, generations of workers, numbering in the millions, were exposed to asbestos in sometimes lethal doses, leading to a large amount of cases where people were diagnosed with either asbestosis, a scaring of the tissue within the lungs, mesothelioma, a deadly form of asbestos cancer, or a number of other illnesses. Additionally, there are documented cases of the family members of workers being exposed to asbestos through “secondary exposure,” such as through clothes brought home from the workplace.
Asbestos exposure can lead to both chronic and fatal respiratory conditions, including pleural effusions, asbestosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma. It may take anywhere from fifteen to fifty years after the initial exposure for a condition to develop. Symptoms include being short of breath, coughing up blood, being fatigued and losing weight. Individuals who know or believe that they were exposed to asbestos should consult a physician and closely monitor their respiratory health for changes.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer which grows on the mesothelium, a membrane that covers most of the body’s internal organs. This cancer is treatable but not curable. Mesothelioma treatment options can slow the progress of the disease and ease symptoms, but do not typically cure the body of cancer. When workers can document that employers knowingly withheld information about the risks of asbestos exposure, they may be positioned to sue employers for damages associated with health problems resulting from asbestos exposure.