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C4-S-1a Mariner / APA-248 Paul Revere / AKA-112 Tulare

The Mariner-class ships were excellent breakbulk ships originally operated for Maritime Administration (MARAD) under General Agency Agreements. The C-4 Mariner class was a traditional house/engine-room center vessel, with 4 hatches forward and 2 aft. Since the Korean War had emphasized supply, a share of new construction was allocated to logistic support units. Early in the Korean conflict three 20-knot passenger ships, already building for the American President Lines, were taken over and completed as troop transports for MSTS, which also acquired some new cargo types with roll-on roll-off loading systems and with hulls strengthened for use in ice. Although many NDRF ships operated superbly in support of allied forces in Korea, the Maritime Administration, recognized the need to stimulate the US shipbuilding industry. Under the stimulus of the Korean war the Maritime Commission undertook the construction of a number of 20-knot Mariner class cargo ships.

Realizing the limitations of the World War II Maritime Commission-built fleet of merchant ships, Admiral Edward L. Cochrane initiated a program to foster ship construction in the US and oversaw the design and building of the Mariner-class freighters. Rather than duplicate past designs, Marad decided to build a ship for the future. This new type cargo ship would deliver higher volumes of cargo at higher speeds than previous designs. Capable of running at 20 kn, the ships were 564 ft long and loaded with innovations such as hydraulically-operated hatches. A technological leap forward, they established many of the machinery practices used during the following decade and remained in service well beyond the war.

Initially, American operators didn't share Marad's vision. They refused to buy the ships when offered for sale after the war, calling them "too big," "too fast," and "too technological." One was early acquired by the Navy for conversion to an AKA and others in due course for conversion to attack transports. Four of the ships went to the Navy as attack transports and experimental vessels, and the rest went to lay-up.

American carriers such as American President Lines, Matson Lines, Pope & Talbot Lines, and Pacific Far East Lines became familiar with the ships and gained an appreciation for their size, speed, and manpower-saving features. Within a few years, however, Marad was vindicated. As the world re-industrialized, US operators saw that the ships could help to capture a share of the growing international trade. Not only did they buy all the remaining Mariners, they built another 17-18 [?] of them privately. The true testament to the design's farsightedness came from the competition. After initially protesting the "unfair technological advantage" granted by this new ship, foreign owners began building Mariner copies, and did so well into the next decade.

In 1971 three American Mail Line Mariner-type (C-4) cargo liners were jumboized. The Washington Mail, Japan Mail and Philippine Mail received new 105-foot midbodies at Bethlehem Steel's San Francisco yard, increasing their length from 564 feet to 669 feet. As full container ships of the C-6 class, they were able to handle 892 20-foot containers compared to 200 under their original design. The vessels also received new bow thrusters for better steering control in close quarters, and a new stabilization system.

The Mariners revolutionized shipping on a world scale. It was by far Marad's most successful project. Until the coming of containerships in the late 1960s, there were variations of the seven-hatch Mariner design building all over the world. The Mariner program is regarded as conclusive proof that a militarily useful ship design can also be commercially successful. The Mariner Class vessels had National Defense Features that provided considerable extra horsepower that commercial operation was not allowed to use. The extra nozzle blocks on the turbine were locked with chain and sealed. If the seals were found broken at inspection, the company who owned the ship was liable to considerable extra charges.

As part of the 1950s modernization of the Navy's amphibious force with faster ships, two attack transports (APA-248 Paul Revere and APA-249 Francis Marion) were converted from new "Mariner" class freighters. In 1958 the Navy ordered the conversion of the Mariner-class cargo ship Diamond Mariner to then the nation's largest and fastest attack transport, the USS Paul Revere (APA-248). This projects being assigned to the private Todd yard was due to the Navy's return to allotting repair work to private yards.

Francis Marion (APA-249) was launched as Prarie Mariner on 13 February 1954 by New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, NJ and delivered on 25 May to the Maritime Administration who operated her until she was placed in the National Defense Reserve Fleet on 6 January 1955. She was transferred to the Navy on 16 March 1959, named, classified APA-249, and converted by Bethlehem Steel Co., Baltimore, Md. Francis Marion was commissioned on 6 July 1961.

However, by the end of the 1950s, it was clear that boats would soon be superseded by amphibious tractors (LVTs) and helicopters for landing combat assault troops. These could not be supported by attack transports in the numbers required, and new categories of amphibious ships began to replace APAs throughout the 1960s. By 1969, when the surviving attack transports were redesignated LPA (retaining their previous numbers), only a few remained in commissioned service. The last of these were decommissioned in 1980 and sold abroad, leaving only a few throughly obsolete World War II era hulls still laid up in the Maritime Administration's reserve fleet. The APA/LPA designation may, therefore, now be safely considered extinct.

Tulare (AKA-112) was laid down under a Maritime Administration contract as Evergreen Mariner (MA hull 32) on 16 February 1953, at San Francisco, Calif., by the Bethlehem Pacific Coast Steel Corp.; launched on 22 December 1953; sponsored by Miss Carolyn Knight, daughter of the governor of California, Goodwin J. Knight; renamed Tulare and designated as AKA-112 on 10 June 1954. The ship was then converted to an attack cargo ship by her building yard; turned over to the Navy on 10 January 1956; and commissioned on 12 January 1956. On 1 January 1969, the ship was redesignated LKA-112. She was decommissioned on 03/31/1986 and stricken on 08/31/1992.

A need for shipboard range instrumentation was recognized very early in the U.S. space program since many launches were made toward the ocean for reasons of safety. The first range instrumentation ships carried very simple equipment, mostly telemetry gear adapted from shore equipment. In some instances, for the sake of expediency, range equipment was not even installed in the ships but was brought aboard in vans.

As requirements for precision and the complexity of tracking, telemetry, and control (TT&C) instrumentation became more demanding, shipboard range equipment was developed specifically for shipboard use. The first range ship with a fully instrumented TT&C system was the USNS Range Tracker (AGM-1), which became operational on the Pacific Missile Range in late 1961. Victory and Mariner-class ships were provided eventually for both national ranges. Three ships were fitted with large stabilized parabolic tracking and telemetry antennas, digital computers for processing satellite data, and ultra-precise navigation, timing, and data-recording systems.

The last active AGM (USNS Wheeling) was retired in 1981. In 1980, a proposal was made by NAVAIR to replace the Wheeling, a World War II Victory Ship, with a commercial C5 hull, moving all the tracking and electronics equipment from the Wheeling. The Director of OP-098, VADM Emerson, decided not to proceed with hull replacement due to costs and changing requirements.

Military Sealift Command operated two missile range instrumentation ships, USNS Observation Island (T-AGM 23) and USNS Invincible (T-AGM 24). Missile range instrumentation ships provide platforms for monitoring missile launches. USNS Observation Island was built as a "Mariner" class merchant ship, launched in August, 1953, and was acquired by the Navy in September 1956 for use as a fleet ballistic missile test ship. The vessel was converted at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and kept in reserve as a Maritime Administration asset from 1972 until 1977. In August 1977, Observation Island was reacquired by the U.S. Navy and transferred to Military Sealift Command, where she was reclassified as T-AGM 23, a missile range instrumentation ship.

In the early 1950s, at 563 feet and with 20 knots speed, the high speed single screw Mariner class freighters were the size and speed of moderate size passenger liners. Matson Lines was one of the first to realize this. When Matson Lines felt financially confident enough to restore its pre war passenger line from the West Coast to the Antipodes, they arranged with the US Government to adapt two "Mariner" freighters to the passenger trades, rather than build a pair of ships from the keel up. In 1955 and 1956, Matson purchased two for conversion. The first to enter service was the 14,812 ton Mariposa in 1956. The versatility of welding was instrumental in converting the rugged freighter Pine Tree Mariner into the luxury ocean liner Mariposa whose ports of call were exotic locales in the South Seas. She was followed by sistership, Monterey, in 1957. The Monterey was built as the Free State Mariner in 1952, and converted into a cruiseship in 1957. The ships were austerely, but comfortably, decorated and had ample cargo capacity. Known for excellent service and cuisine and carrying only 336 first-class passengers, they quickly developed a following.

In 1971, Mariposa and Monterey were sold to Pacific Far East Line, when Matson decided to concentrate on cargo operations. With the expiration of their government operating subsidies, both ships were withdrawn in 1978. Mariposa was sold to China and went through a series of name changes before being scrapped in 1996. Monterey eventually went to Mediterranean Shipping Company and was sailing Mediterranean cruises in 2003.

A third Mariner class vessel was purchased by American Banner Lines for conversion in 1957. Intended for a tourist-class transatlantic service, she carried only 40 first-class passengers and 860 in tourist-class. Influenced by Holland America's Ryndam and Maasdam from 1951-52, the Atlantic's tourist class would be very modern and comfortable, but very inexpensive. Measuring 14,138 tons, with a speed of 20 knots, Atlantic entered service in 1958 on the New York-Amsterdam run. However, the operation was not successful and Atlantic was withdrawn one year later. Shortly thereafter, she was brought by American Export Lines and renovated for New York-Mediterranean service.

In 1977 H.R. 7278 to amend section 10 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 was enacted in Pub. L. 93-605, amending USC TITLE 46, CHAPTER 27 MERCHANT MARINE ACT, 1936 , SUBCHAPTER V, 1160. This proposed to upgrade the National Defense Reserve Fleet by authorizing the Secretary of Commerce to acquire Mariner class and other suitable vessels in exchange for obsolete vessels in that fleet scheduled for scrapping. The Secretary of Commerce had the responsibility to provide merchant shipping during times of national emergency. One of the most available sources of merchant shipping available to the Secretary for this purpose were the vessels which are laid up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet. Unfortunately, most of these vessels dated back to World War II. By relative standards, they were slow, and have small carrying capacity.

In former years, U.S.-flag break-bulk vessels were readily available from both the scheduled liner service-both subsidized and nonsubsidized-and so-called tramp, or unscheduled shipping. By the 1970s the tramp fleet, once a large source of contingency surge capability is almost nonexistent. Since the U.S.-flag tramp fleet was no longer available, the National Defense Reserve Fleet was more important than ever.

Unfortunately, by 1977 there were only about 130 merchant vessels in the National Defense Reserve Fleet with any shipping utility. The emaining vessels were ready for scrapping. H.R. 7278 would authorize the Secretary of Commerce to acquire Mariner class and other suitable vessels, constructed in the United States, which have never been under foreign documentation, in exchange for obsolete vessels in the National Defense Reserve Fleet. A "suitable vessel" would be any oceangoing vessel determined by the Secretary of Commerce to be suitable for upgrading the National Defense Reserve Fleet. Any criteria to be used in determining whether a vessel is suitable would be set forth in regulations promulgated by the Maritime Administration of the Department of Commerce.

In acquiring such vessels, the traded-in and traded-out vessels would be valued on the same basis; at the higher of their scrap value in domnestic or foreign markets on the date Of the exchange. The value of the tradedrort vessel would as nearly as possible be equal to the value the traded-in vesse1 plus the fair value of the cost of towin the traded-out vessel to the place of scrapping. The fair value of such towing was included because if the owner of such traded-in vessel was to scrap it abroad, he would be able carry cargo to an area near where the vessel would be scrapped. To the extent that the value of the traded-out vessel exceeded the value of the traded-in vessel, plus the towing cost, the owner of the traded-in vessel would pass the excess to the Secretary of Commerce in cash at the time of exchange for deposit into the Vessel Operations Revolving Fund, and all costs incident to the layup of the traded-in vessel would be paid from balances in the fund. No payments would be made by the Secretary of Commerce to the owner of any traded-in vessel.

Finally, H.R. 7278 provided that, notwithstanding the provisions of sections 9 and 37 of the Shipping Act of 1916, which prohibits the transfer of American-flag vessels to foreign ownership without the consent of the Secretary of Commerce, vessels traded out under the bill may be scrapped in approved foreign markets.

The Department of Defense stressed that the opportunity afforded by H.R. 7278 to rejuvenate the National Defense Reserve Fleet by the acquisition of relatively modern cargo ships must not be lost, as such vessels were particularly well suited to the Department of Defense in wartime. The reported bill would provide for an efficient method of accomplishing this objective with adequate safeguards for the Government.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:40:33 ZULU