SS West Compo

West Compo was a steam cargo ship built in 1918–1919 by Northwest Steel Company of Portland for the United States Shipping Board as part of the wartime shipbuilding program of the Emergency Fleet Corporation (EFC) to restore the nation's Merchant Marine. The vessel was commissioned into the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS) of the United States Navy in January 1919 and after only one overseas trip was decommissioned four months later and returned to the USSB. Afterwards the vessel was largely employed on the Atlantic Coast of the United States to France route until mid-1921 when she was laid up and eventually broken up for scrap in 1936.

West Compo had design and measurements similar to West Shore, a sister ship from the same shipyard seen here c. 1918.
United States
Name: West Compo
Namesake: Compo
Owner: USSB
Ordered: 27 December 1917
Builder: Northwest Steel Co., Portland
Yard number: 20[1]
Laid down: 27 August 1918
Launched: 27 November 1918
Sponsored by: Miss Nellie M. Washburn
Commissioned: 31 January 1919
Maiden voyage: 9 February 1919
Homeport: Portland
Fate: Scrapped, 1936
United States
Name: USS West Compo
Operator: U.S. Navy (1919)
Acquired: 3 February 1919
Commissioned: 3 February 1919
Decommissioned: 22 May 1919
Fate: Returned to owners 22 May 1919
General characteristics
Type: Design 1013 ship
Displacement: 12,185 tons (normal)[2]
Length: 409 ft 8 in (124.87 m)
Beam: 54 ft 2 in (16.51 m)
Draft: 24 ft 12 in (7.328 m) (loaded)
Depth: 27 ft 2 in (8.28 m)
Installed power: 583 Nhp, 2,500 shp
Propulsion: General Electric Co. steam turbine, double reduction geared to one screw
Speed: 11 12 knots (13.2 mph; 21.3 km/h)
Complement: 62

Design and construction

After the United States entry into World War I, a large shipbuilding program was undertaken to restore and enhance shipping capabilities both of the United States and their Allies. As part of this program, EFC placed orders with nation's shipyards for a large number of vessels of standard designs. Design 1013 cargo ship was a standard cargo freighter of approximately 8,800 tons deadweight designed by Skinner & Eddy Corp. and adopted by USSB.

West Compo was part of the order for 8 vessels placed by USSB with Northwest Steel Co. on 27 December 1917 and was laid down on 27 August 1918 at the shipbuilder's yard and launched on 27 November 1919 (yard number 20), with Miss Nellie M. Washburn being the sponsor.[1][3] Similar to many other vessels ordered by the Shipping Board during these years and built by the West Coast shipyards, she was given a name that began with the word West to reflect their West Coast origin.[4]

The ship was shelter-deck type, had two main decks and had five main holds which allowed for the carriage of variety of goods and merchandise. The vessel also possessed all the modern machinery for quick loading and unloading of cargo from five large hatches, including ten winches and a large number of derricks. She was also equipped with wireless apparatus, had submarine signal system installed and had electrical lights installed along the decks.

As built, the ship was 409 feet 8 inches (124.87 m) long (between perpendiculars) and 54 feet 2 inches (16.51 m) abeam, a depth of 27 feet 2 inches (8.28 m).[5] West Compo was originally assessed at 5,700 GRT and 3,517 NRT and had deadweight of approximately 8,635.[6][5] The vessel had a steel hull with double bottom throughout with exception of her machine compartment, and a single turbine rated at 2,500 shp, double-reduction geared to a single screw propeller that moved the ship at up to 11 12 knots (13.2 mph; 21.3 km/h).[5] The steam for the engine was supplied by three single-ended Scotch marine boilers fitted for both coal and oil fuel.

The sea trials were held in the Columbia River on 29 and 30 January 1919 with the ship performing satisfactorily. Following their successful completion, West Compo was handed over to her owners next day.[7]

Operational history

U.S. Navy service, World War I

Following an established practice all vessels built for the EFC were transferred to the U.S. Navy upon completion. On 11 January 1919 it was announced that West Compo would be the last of Portland-built vessels to be turned over to the Navy and there would be no further vessel transfers after January 31. Following completion of her sea trials, the freighter was delivered to USSB and then to the Navy on February 1. After examination the ship was commissioned into the NOTS on 3 February 1919, with Lieutenant Commander A. A. Modeer, USNRF, in command, assigned Identification number of 3912, and immediately proceeded for loading. After embarking a cargo of 82,266 barrels of wheat flour, West Compo left Portland on February 9 also carrying on board federal inspectors.[8] The inspectors disembarked the vessel in Astoria after ascertaining the vessel performed satisfactorily on her loaded run down the Columbia River,[9] while the freighter continued on her maiden journey. After a call at San Francisco, West Compo transited the Panama Canal on March 2, called at Norfolk in mid-March for bunkers before continuing on to the Mediterranean finally reaching Trieste on April 9.[10][11][2][Note 1] After unloading her cargo and taking on sand ballast, she departed Italy on April 19 and arrived at Philadelphia via Gibraltar on May 15.[12] She was decommissioned one week later, and returned to the USSB.[2]

Commercial service

Following decommissioning from the Navy service, USSB allocated West Compo to Strachan Shipping Company to operate on their Southeast United States to France and Low Countries routes. The vessel cleared from Philadelphia on 27 May 1919 bound for Savannah where she loaded 20,665 bales of cotton and sailed for Le Havre on June 13.[13][14] On her next trip to Europe she carried 7,100 tons of phosphate rock from Fernandina to Denmark.[15] West Compo continued serving these routes until the end of her career. For example, in August 1920 she again carried 7,100 tons of hard rock phosphate from Florida ports of Jacksonville and Fernandina to Bremen and Fredericia.[16] On her last return trip from Stettin and Brest she became disabled soon after leaving the French port on 11 April 1921 and had to be put back with a help of the USSB tug for quick repairs. West Compo arrived at Savannah on May 4 where she was returned by Strachan Shipping to the USSB due to overabundance of tonnage and scarcity of cargo. The freighter remained moored in Savannah for the next year and a half. In November 1922 it was announced the ship together with several other vessels was set to be relocated to Eustis to be laid up.[17] The freighter was first towed to Charleston in early December 1922 where she remained for the next eight month before finally arriving in Newport News on 15 August 1923 to become part of the USSB reserve fleet.[18][19]

In November 1929 the Shipping Board contemplated reconditioning of six ships, including West Compo, in anticipation of increased cotton, wheat and flour traffic out of Gulf ports to Europe, but that work was never performed.[20][21] In early September 1932 the Shipping Board decided to scrap 124 World War I era vessels in its possession, including West Compo, to alleviate significant tonnage overabundance. As a result, all the vessels were removed from the U.S register of shipping.[22] In October 1932 it was announced the whole lot of these vessels was sold to the Boston Iron and Metal Company of Baltimore for $1.51/ton of recoverable of material which was believed at the time to be over 350,000 tons. The disposition was estimated take about three years to complete and West Compo was eventually scrapped in April 1936.[23][1]


  1. Many West ships, to avoid sailing empty to the East Coast, loaded grain products intended for the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, sailed to Europe without unloading or transferring their cargo, which avoided extra handling of the cargo. The United States Shipping Board, by prior arrangement, received an equivalent amount of cargo space in foreign ships for other American cargos. See: Crowell and Wilson, pp. 358–59.


  1. "West Compo (2217524)". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  2. Naval History and Heritage Command. "West Compo". DANFS. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  3. "Day's Launchings Three". The Morning Oregonian. 28 November 1918. p. 5.
  4. Crowell and Wilson, pp. 358–59.
  5. Merchant Vessels of the United States. Washington, DC: United States Printing Office. 1925–1926.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  6. Register of Ships Owned by United States Shipping Board. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office. 1 August 1920. p. 105.
  7. "West Campo On Trial Trip". The Oregon Daily Journal. 30 January 1919. p. 14. Retrieved 26 August 2019 via
  8. "25 Ships Sail With Food". The Oregon Daily Journal. 13 July 1919. p. 15. Retrieved 26 August 2019 via
  9. "All Along The Waterfront". The Oregon Daily Journal. 11 February 1919. Retrieved 27 August 2019 via
  10. "Movements Of Ocean Vessels". The Panama Canal Record. XII (30). 12 March 1919. p. 354.
  11. "Arrivals". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 23 April 1919. p. 2.
  12. "News Of The Ships And Shipping Men". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 17 May 1919. p. 6.
  13. "Marine News". The Tampa Tribune. 28 May 1919. p. 11.
  14. "Sails From Savannah With Cotton Cargo". The Atlanta Constitution. 14 June 1919. p. 7. Retrieved 26 August 2019 via
  15. "Phosphate Rock Shipments". American Fertilizer. 51 (10). 8 November 1919. p. 131.
  16. "Phosphate Rock Shipments". Farm Chemicals. 53 (7). 25 September 1920. p. 128.
  17. "Records And News Of The Waterfront". Daily Press. 5 November 1922. p. 27.
  18. "Ship News Of World Continued". The New York Herald. 6 December 1922. p. 18.
  19. "Records And News Of The Waterfront". Daily Press. 16 August 1923. p. 9.
  20. "Preparing Idle Fleet For Service". The Morning Call. 27 November 1929. p. 1. Retrieved 30 August 2019 via
  21. "Cotton Carrier Fleet In Cards". The Los Angeles Times. 3 December 1929. p. 39. Retrieved 31 August 2019 via
  22. "Shipping Board To Scrap 124 Vessels". Rutland Daily Herald. 6 September 1932. p. 3. Retrieved 30 August 2019 via
  23. "Contract To Scrap 124 Ships Awarded To Baltimore Firm". The Daily Press. 8 October 1932. p. 3. Retrieved 30 August 2019 via


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