Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
A photo of the "Hammer-head" crane on the cover of the company's newsletter "Our Yard" in 1947.

Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Company (1917–1989) was a major shipbuilding company in Chester, Pennsylvania, about 15 miles south of Philadelphia on the Delaware River.

Its primary product was tankers, but the company built many types of ships over its 70-year history. During World War II, it participated in the U.S. Government's Emergency Shipbuilding Program.[1] The company was also part of the U.S. aerospace industry during the Cold War; it built various propulsion research & development structures, including the largest U.S. rocket test chamber, for Aerojet General in 1963.[2]


The company was developed by Sun Oil Company, and launched its first ship in 1917, just as the United States was entering World War I. Under the direction of its president, John Glenn Pew, the company experienced tremendous success over the following decades.[3] In the 1920s, it had become a large shipyard that built tankers for the Standard Oil Company and by the start of World War II, it was among the country's five largest shipyards, with eight slipways. Twenty slipways were added during the war, making Sun Ship the country's largest shipyard.[4] At its peak, the company employed more than 40,000 workers at four shipyards, including one manned almost entirely by African Americans.[5]

Sun Shipbuilding built 281 T2 tankers during World War II, about 40% of the U.S. wartime total. It also built hospital ships, cargo ships, and escort carriers for the United States Maritime Commission. On 27 September 1941, it contributed one of the 14 ships launched on Liberty Fleet Day: SS Surprise.

Sun continued as a merchant shipbuilder after the war, but sold the South and #4 Yards for industrial development.

In the 1970s, Sun built ten roll-on/roll-off (ro/ro) ships for various operators.[citation needed] One of them, sailing under the name SS El Faro, was lost in a hurricane on October 1, 2015, while steaming from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Sohio Resolute, a tanker built by Sun in 1971[6], appears briefly in a scene in the 1976 film Rocky[citation needed].

Pennsylvania Shipbuilding Company[edit]

The company was sold to Pennsylvania Shipbuilding in 1982, and closed in 1989. The Central Yard site has been sold or leased for multiple uses, while the North Yard is now an independent cargo terminal.

Harrah's Philadelphia[edit]

In 2006, a new casino then named "Harrah's Chester" opened on the Sun Ship site and after a rename in May 2012 is currently in operation as "Harrah's Philadelphia".


  1. ^ Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 121, Random House, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
  2. ^ Welders Complete 280-in. Case. // Aviation Week & Space Technology, February 4, 1963, v. 78, no. 5, p. 61.
  3. ^ "John G. Pew" (PDF). 'Our Yard' company newsletter. Retrieved December 12, 2016. 
  4. ^ Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 121, 268-9, 274, Random House, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
  5. ^ "List of ships built by Sun Shipbuilding". Retrieved 4 September 2008. 
  6. ^ "ASPEN - 7118222 - TANKER |". Retrieved 2017-12-28. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°50′56″N 75°21′05″W / 39.84898°N 75.351409°W / 39.84898; -75.351409