On the East Coast of the United States, Baltimore was so well situated that it was included on every shipyard expansion-list issued by the Planning Board of the Maritime Commission, although in early times it was doubtful who would finally develop the new site there. At the same time and further south, potential sites in North Carolina were under consideration. In Virginia the Newport News Shipbuilding Company, one of the nation's leading builders, was fully engaged on navy contracts
and there was no possibility of merchantmen being built on their slips.
Even as late as December 1940 this company still refused to beinterested in handling a new shipyard, but in the following month itrelented and reluctantly agreed to develop a yard at Wilmington, NorthCarolina. Subsequent and rapid development enabled this, the third ofthree East Coast emergency yards, to sign its first Liberty contractsduring the same month.
The parent company transferred some of its own personnel to the newyard, these ranging from management to apprentices, but many of thenew executives appointed had no shipbuilding knowledge. Skilled labor was recruited locally and later more workers were drawn from the surrounding farmlands. This latter labor force became renowned for its 'permitted' absenteeism, although it was usually proved that these workers were still assisting the war effort elsewhere, for at certain seasons they stayed at home to help on the farms. Nevertheless, on the
whole the yard operated with a fairly stable labor force and it was considered to have done the best 'new-yard' job of the establishedshipbuilders.
The first ships constructed were dependent upon the parent company for the fabrication of their steel, thus the yard was originally equipped with only a small fabricating shop of its own. Later expansion of the facilities and an increase from six to nine slipways sharply increased the production rate but also increased the original anticipated cost of the yard from $7.5 million to a total in excess of $20 million.
The building time of the ships was very much more rapid that the contracts stipulated, the mild climate of the area allowing the pre-assembly of large sections in the open, and for each day saved the shipyard received the usual bonus payment. The contracts allowed an estimated 640,700 man-hours per ship, but deliveries were made in an average of only 403,400 hours. This established a record for low costs in Liberty building, although it must be remembered that wages in this state were lower than in many other areas. The yard earned no large bonuses for sheer speed alone, but earned them by this massive saving in man-hours.
During 1943 the Maritime Commission tried to induce various
shipbuilders to change from the cost-plus contracts to fixed price contracts in an effort to get the yards to use their manpower more efficiently, but during that year only this North Carolina yard was persuaded so to do.
Also in the same year a prime factor in the reduced Liberty ship output was the award to the yard of a contract for sixty C2-type cargo ships, for which it began laying keels in mid-1943. Its Liberty ship construction ceased altogether in August 1943 and from this date the yard directed its attentions to even more vessels of the C2 type.
After the war this North Carolina yard was retained by the MaritimeCommission as a stand-by yard for use in any future emergency.
Liberty ship output: 126 vessels at an average cost of $1,543,600 each.
|USMC Numbers||Yard Numbers|
| 145-169 || 1-25|
| 217-228 || 26-37|
| 860-912 || 38-90|
World War II Construction Records of the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company