Portland Ship Repair is currently owned and operated by Cascade General. It is the largest shipyard on the West Coast and has approximately 60 acres. The Columbia-Willamette Shipping Channel connects the area to the Pacific Ocean. It is located in a section of Portland, Oregon known as “Swan Island” and was originally created in 1903 and known as the largest commercial and publicly run shipyard within the United States.
In 1942, Henry Kaiser developed the business to meet ship repair needs for the war effort during World War II when they began building Liberty ships. It has the largest floating dry dock in the Americas and continues today to modernize and update their business efforts in repairing various ships and vessels. Cascade General began their business involvement with the shipyard in 1987 and became the sole business owner in 2001.
The business rapidly expanded in the 1960s and 1970s. The 1980s and 1990s, however, brought about a major downtown as they began losing large amounts of money. This is due to many factors including increased market competition, cheaper foreign markets, the oil crisis and decreased military funding and cutbacks. Cascade General is currently looking for different ways to expand their business revenue.
Many thousands of workers within the military and in commercial industry were exposed to asbestos in the shipyards. Asbestos was widely used in shipbuilding on many different types of ship materials. Asbestos dust particles become airborne and inhaled, which causes subsequent lung and internal tissue damage.Asbestos exposure is the known cause of a rare and deadly form of asbestos cancer known as Mesothelioma. Exposure can also lead to other lung cancers and diseases. There are known malignant mesothelioma and asbestos related disease cases in former Portland Shipyard Repair workers.
Portland Harbor has been listed as a Superfund site due to the high levels of dangerous contaminants to the surrounding environment. This is due to the shipbuilding and repair industry as well as other industrial activities that have taken place there over the years. A Superfund Site is one that has been determined to have high levels of hazardous pollutants that put area residents at risk for disease and the loss of property value due to environmental damage. It is designated for significant cleanup and to offer protection to those individuals that may suffer from related disease or a large loss of value in their homes. More than seventy dangerous contaminants were found at significant levels in the area that included asbestos, DDT and PCBs.
Cascade General has taken steps to try to ensure there is not further pollution and hazardous materials released into the area’s environment. They developed a dry dock tear out and repair system that keeps environmental toxins contained to the area rather than being done in the waterline. This proved invaluable when a ship caught fire in 2000 and all environmental toxins were contained. However, this does not change the fact that exposure to hazardous chemicals including asbestos occurred for many years. If you worked at the Portland Ship Repair Yard up until the late 1970s, you could be at high risk for asbestos related disease and should seek prompt medical advice.