History of Welding in Shipbuilding

welding for shipfitting

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Welding played a crucial role in winning World War II. At the start of the war, German submarines were sinking American and British ships faster than these countries were producing them. Welding replaced riveting as a faster shipbuilding method. 1

Welding Replaces Riveting on Ships in WWII

To speed up and improve production, shipyards started using templates to manufacture prefabricated ships and replacing riveting with welding. The 2,710 cargo ships they built between 1941 and 1945 were called “Liberty Ships.” They were credited with helping to win the war.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt praised the welding that made the Liberty Ships possible in a letter to Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Experts presumed that the President was referring to submerged arc welding which could joint steel plates faster than other welding processes at the time. 2

Interesting Facts about Liberty Ships

liberty ship

  • Newspapers called the ships ‘ugly ducklings,’ and President Roosevelt referred to them as ‘dreadful-looking objects.’ In an effort to create a more positive image, the U.S. Maritime Commission made the day the first 15 ships launched, September 27, 1941, Liberty Fleet Day—and that’s where the ships got their names.
  • Rosie the Riveter character was created to recruit women to work in the shipyards as many men had been drafted to fight in the war.
  • The California Shipbuilding Corporation broke the U.S. shipbuilding record in June 1943 by delivering 20 Liberty Ships in one month.
  • Each Liberty Ship could carry over 9,000 tons of cargo in its 5 holds, and airplanes, tanks, and locomotives on its deck.
  • One Liberty Ship could hold 2,840 jeeps, 440 tanks, or 230 million rounds of rifle ammunition! 3

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Modern Shipfitting

modern ship building

Just as welders played a crucial role in World War II, modern shipfitters build the vessels that are essential to global commerce, the military, and the travel industry.

Shipfitters use welding to construct everything from aircraft carriers and submarines to ocean liners and container ships to towboats and tugboats.

A Career in Shipfitting

Does shipfitting sound like an exciting career to you? To get started in the industry, you’ll want to take blue print reading, math, and welding classes. Once you’ve completed your training, you could be well on your way to making your contribution to this important industry.

Additional Sources

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