The rocky history of concrete ships

“Concrete ships were first built in the mid-19th century. There were some short-lived efforts to build concrete ships during and right after World War I, in part due to the high cost of steel.

“Wilmington’s Liberty Shipyard constructed concrete ships on what had been the Kidder Sawmill site. Work on the yard began in May 1918, but the first ship wasn’t launched until after the war ended. The Liberty Shipyard closed in October 1919.

“Less than one year later, the Newport Shipbuilding Corp. leased the old Liberty Shipyard land from the city of Wilmington. In May 1921, this new endeavor’s first concrete river steamer was launched. Still, this second concrete shipbuilding enterprise did not last long either — the yard stopped producing concrete ships in the summer of 1922.”

— From “In 1921, concrete ship launched into the Cape Fear River” by Jan Davidson in the Wilmington Star-News (

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