The SS Samaustral was a Liberty ship built at J.A. Jones Construction, Brunswick, Georgia, during World War II. She was laid down on 16 March 1944, under a Maritime Commission contract and launched on 28 April 1944. Even if there were health risks associated with the use of asbestos as early as the 1930s, the mineral continued being incorporated in ships until the mid1970s. Thousands of navy veterans have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer or other pulmonary diseases as a result of asbestos exposure.
Navy veterans that encountered asbestos include those who renovated or removed asbestos-containing products, worked in shipyards or in the lower areas of the ships such as engine rooms, boiler rooms, and pump rooms. The SS Samaustral was transferred to the British Ministry of War Transportation upon completion. On 23 April 1947, the ship was sold to J&C. Harrison, Ltd., for commercial use.