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Berth 240 - The Bethlehem Shipyard


Diagram of Berth 240
Diagram of Berth 240
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Following the war, Southwestern Shipbuilding continued to construct and repair vessels, although on a much smaller scale. In 1920, when the Port laid out the extension to Seaside Avenue, the Port reduced Southwestern Shipbuilding's shipyard to approximately 38 acres, and when the main channel was widened in 1926, the yard was further scaled down. On January 1, 1922, Bethlehem acquired the Southwestern Shipbuilding plant. Bethlehem rearranged the shipyard into a repair plant (although it continued to do some shipbuilding). It transferred four sections of a 15,000-ton floating dry dock from the Bethlehem Union Iron Works plant in San Francisco to the San Pedro location, creating a 14,000-ton dry dock. Ames Construction Company in Seattle originally built the dry dock in 1919 and installed it at the Union Iron Works in San Francisco. In 1924, the fifth section was added to the dry dock, creating a 15,000-ton capacity. The sectional design of the dry dock allows it to accommodate both small and large ships. At the time, the floating dry dock was the largest of its kind on the West Coast.

Caption to come
Construction at Berth 240

Bethlehem constructed a number of facilities at Berth 240 in the succeeding years, including a boilermaker shop, a carpenter shop, an electrical shop, a joiner department, a machine shop, a marine-machine shop, a pipe shop, a rigger shop, a plate shop, a pattern shop, and a blacksmith shop. Union Pacific Railroad and Southern Pacific Railroad served the plant, and concrete boulevards enabled trucks and automobiles to reach the docks and piers. The yard was equipped to build, recondition, and repair all sizes and types of wood and steel vessels, including tugs, yachts, and barges.

Historic view of ship repair work
Historic view of ship repair work

During this period, Bethlehem operated other plants around the nation, including one at Potrero and Hunter's Point in San Francisco, as well as the Alameda plant in Alameda, California. The company's Atlantic coast plants were located in Sparrows Point, Maryland; Baltimore, Maryland; and Boston, Massachusetts.