U.S.S. Alamagordo ARDM 2 (Floating Dry Dock)
Alamagordo was built by the Pacific Bridge Company during the early years of World War II and originally designated ARD 26, without benefit of a name. Entering service in June of 1944, the vessel would serve the US Navy for over forty years.
The floating dry dock was not self-propelled and would be towed by ocean-going tugs, as well as other ships, during its many voyages. The first such came in the fall of 1944, with the vessel being sent, via Pearl Harbor and other stops, to provide service support in Guam.
In early 1945 the dry dock was sent to Okinawa, where it docked ships for temporary repairs, rendering them seaworthy they had been damaged in combat. The goal of the dry dock was to allow ships to receive the repairs necessary to allow them to steam under their own power to ports where more extensive repairs could be completed. Returning to Guam in August 1945, the dry dock resumed its duties there.
ARD 26 remained at Guam, providing repair service for ships deployed there or transiting vessels requiring emergency services, for the next 17 years. The vessel was finally towed to California in early 1962, where it underwent a pre-storage overhaul, after which it was placed in the reserve fleet in San Diego.
As the US Navy’s Polaris and Poseidon Submarine Program continued to expand in the early 1960s, the need for dry dock facilities for several submarine ports grew correspondingly. ARD 26 was re-activated, towed to Baltimore, MD via the Panama Canal, and converted to an Auxiliary Repair Dock, Medium, (ARDM 2), by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. In March of 1965, the vessel was christened with a name for the first time and resumed commissioned service in August of that year, when it was towed to Charleston, SC and moored in the Cooper River at Naval Weapons Station, Charleston.
For the next twenty plus years, Alamagordo provided repair and upkeep services for diesel-electric, nuclear-powered attack and nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile submarines, remaining at its moorings. Submarines would enter the dock with its well deck flooded; the deck would then be pumped dry, allowing maintenance and inspections of the hull, fittings, screws and shafts, and other items not accessible during a routine refit.
Alamagordo was retired from service and stricken from the Naval Register in 1993, prior to transfer of the vessel to the James River Reserve Fleet. Ecuador acquired the dry dock in 2000.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Alamagordo
As a ship of mid-1940s vintage, Alamagordo was built using many components and materials containing asbestos. Although the vessel lacked engines for self-propulsion, it was nonetheless equipped with numerous engines for cranes, motorized winches, capstans and other equipment, all of which contained asbestos materials. Likewise, many brake linings, couplings and like equipment contained asbestos materials.
Electrical insulation, electrical distribution panels, deck tiles, fireproofing and pipe insulation were all manufactured from asbestos. Asbestos cloth covered pipes for thermal insulation, many of them running throughout the vessel.
As a repair vessel, Alamagordo and its crew, frequently supported by shipyard and contractor personnel, conducted extensive repairs on vessels within its dry dock basin, nearly all of which contained asbestos materials as well.