Type N3 ship

Type N3-S ships were a Maritime Commission small coastal cargo ship design to meet urgent World War II shipping needs, with the first of the 109 N3, both steam and diesel, type hulls delivered in December 1942.

N3-S-A1 illustration from ""American World Traders-New Ships for the Merchant Marine"
Class overview
Name: Type N3
Subclasses: N3-S-A1 (coal fired), N3-S-A2 (oil fired), N3-M-A1 (diesel with superstructure aft)
Completed: 109
General characteristics
Class and type: Cargo ship
Tonnage: 2,905 dwt
Displacement: 14,245 long tons (14,474 t)
Length: 258 ft 9 in (78.87 m)
Beam: 42 ft 1 in (12.83 m)
Draft: 20 ft 9 in (6.32 m)
Installed power: reciprocating steam
Propulsion: Coal or oil fired, 1300 shaft horsepower
Speed: 10.2 knots (11.7 mph; 18.9 km/h)
Capacity: 2,905 t (2,859 long tons) deadweight (DWT)

They were built by the Penn Jersey Shipbuilding Co. of Camden, New Jersey. [Note 1] [1]


The N3-S, with "S" designating "steam," came in two versions patterned on and sometimes themselves termed Baltic Coasters.[2] One, the N3-S-A1 was coal fired reciprocating steam powered at British request with the N3-S-A2 variant being oil fired and both types intended largely for wartime lend lease.[3]

The basic design characteristics[4] were:

  • Deadweight tonnage—2,905.
  • Length overall—258 feet 9 inches.
  • Breadth—42 feet 1 inch.
  • Cargo capacity tons—2,243.
  • Crew—23.
  • Normal sea speed (average sea conditions)—10½ knots.
  • Cruising radius (nautical miles)—4,500.
  • Machinery—reciprocating steam.

However, as the built dimensions and tonnage of the two N3-S types varied somewhat from the basic design and each other.[1] The fourteen Penn-Jersey N3-M-A1 vessels had a different profile in addition to being diesel powered.[5]


All of the 36 N3-S-A1 vessels, 2,800 DWT, delivered from December 1942 through May 1945, went to Britain and those surviving the war tended to be sold commercial but one; built as the Freeman Hatch and lastly named Houston, gaining some notoriety being sunk during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. Nine built by Leathem D. Smith Ship Building & Coal Company in Stureon Bay, Wisconsin. Nine built by Pacific Bridge Company of San Francisco, California. Walter Butler Shipbuilders Inc. of Superior, Wisconsin built 18.[1][6][7]


Of the 76 proposed N3-S-A2, 2,757 DWT, vessels 59 were built with the first delivered March 1944 and the last after the war in November 1945 with 17 scheduled ships canceled. All were operated by commercial firms with some going to Poland, Greece and Britain.[1] Twenty-three were allocated by the War Shipping Administration to the Army for use as transports.[8] Of those, 19 were operated in the Southwest Pacific Area as part of the Army's permanent local fleet with the first arriving 5 September 1944 and the last in December 1945.[9] A few found their way into non-commissioned U.S. Naval service by way of Army as postwar auxiliaries with at least some leased to Korea: Alchiba (AK-261), Algorab (AK-262), Aquarius (AK-263), Centaurus (AK-264), Cepheus (AK-265) and Serpens (AK-266). Avondale Marine Ways Inc. of Westwego, Louisiana built 14. Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation of Decatur, Alabama built 9. McCloskey & Company of Tampa, Florida built 15. Pendleton ShipYard Company of New Orleans, Louisiana built 4. Pennsylvania ShipYard Inc. of Beaumont, Texas built 9. Walter Butler ShipYeard Inc. of Duluth, Minnesota built 2. Walter Butler ShipYard Inc. built 6.[10][1]


A third variant, the N3-M-A1, at 2,900 DWT, was a very limited design of only fourteen diesel powered ships with superstructure aft instead of midships and built exclusively at Penn-Jersey Shipbuilding Company of Camden, New Jersey. The N3-M-A1 were 2,483 gross tons with a length of 291 feet by beam of 42 feet. Number one and two holds were fifty-six feet long with number three being twenty-eight feet in length. An example is the SS Junior N. Van Noy.[1]

The ships were constructed under U.S. Navy supervision as Navy had assumed the Maritime Commission contracts for the Penn-Jersey yard and was allocating vessels of this type for its own and British use.[11] Four of the fourteen ships of this type retained the original form and were transferred to Britain as BAK-1, BAK-2, BAK-3 and BAK-4 and operated by Currie Line for the Ministry of War Transport as SS Asa Lothrop, Lauchlan McKay, John L. Manson and Nathaniel Mathews. [12] One was retained by the U.S. Navy as the USS Enceladus (AK-80) with the remaining nine transferred to the U.S. Army to be converted to U.S. Army Engineer Port Repair ships. The conversion placed machine, welding and carpenter shops in number two hold along with generators and air compressors supporting engineering work. Number one hold was reserved for construction machinery with number three containing repair stock, portable generators, refrigerated stores and quarters. The ships also carried portable salvage equipment, including diver support, five ton capacity crawler crane, other lifting equipment and a pontoon barge. The most notable feature was addition of a forty-ton cathead derrick for heavy salvage.

Notable incidents

  • John W. Arey a N3-S-A1, renamed Silver Coast was on a trip from Canabayon Island, Philippines to Luzon, Philippines she sank on 12 Jan. 1971.[13]
  • SS Tully Crosby a N3-S-A1, renamed SS Capetan Vassilis caught fire and sank in 14 April 1965 at 35.07N 26.52E full of sunflower seed off the eastern coast of the island of Crete.[14]
  • Justin Doane a N3-S-A1, sank after gunfire near Chienchow in 1950.
  • SS Gurden Gates a N3-S-A1, On 24 July 1944 the Nazi Dover Strait big gun guns damaged the Gurden Gates, she was repair. Later sold and renamed SS Three Stars caught fire and was abandoned on 17 Feb. 1967 at Episkopi Bay.[15]
  • Freeman Hatch a N3-S-A1, renamed SS Houston, she was bombed by the Cuban Air Force and sank at the Bay of Pigs invasion on 18 April 1961.[16]
  • Alden Gifford a N3-S-A1, sank in a gale off the West of England, four miles N.N.W. of Longships on 2 September1944. Four crewmen lives were lost.[17]
  • Josiah P. Cressey a N3-S-A1, sank by gunfire in the Yangtze River in 1949.
  • Ashbel Hubbard a N3-S-A1, renamed Solidarity" sank on 4 March 1951. She was traveling with a crew of 24 and a cargo of 2,300 tons of wet mechanical wood pulp in bales from Hommelvik to London. Some hatch covers were washed over board and she fill with water in a storm. The life-saving ship Larvik was able to get the crew.[18]
  • Cyrus Sears a N3-S-A1, renamed Giannis. In 1964 she caught fire in the engine room on a trip from Constanța, Romania to Skikda, Algeria with timber. The fire spread to the cargo holds and the superstructure. The crew abandoned ship to the life boats and were taken aboard British MV Sir Andrew Duncan. The Sir Andrew Duncan took her under two to Valletta, Malta. The Salvage vessel Thames took her out to sea and she sank at 21 nm North East of Malta at 36.04N-14.42E.[19]
  • Reuben Snow (Beechland, Teresa Cosulich) a N3-S-A1. exploded and sank in 1968
  • Nathaniel Matthews a N3-M-A1, sank in 1974.
  • SS Edgar Wakeman a N3-S-A2, renamed SS Kielce collided with French vessel SS Lombardy and sank in 1946. She was loaded with bombs. The crew abandoned the ship and were saved. The ship grounded near Folkestone in the English Channel, in Kent, south-east England. The ship Folkstone Salvage 20 years later was hired to remove the wreck, but not knowing it was full of bombs, set a charge to blow up the ship. The explosion could be felt 5,000 miles away. It made a crater 152 feet long, 67 feet wide, 20 feet deep and part of the town of Folkestone was damaged.[20]
  • Otis White a N3-S-A2, renamed SS Beny, broke in two and sank in 1969 after running a ground off the Brazilian coast.[21]
  • David R. Le Craw a N3-S-A2, renamed Los Caribes was in a collision with the MS Schauenburg, then exploded and sank on 20 April 1958 in Mexico, Coatzacoalcos harbor channel. She was going to New York City with a load of sulphur.[22]
  • Samuel Samuels a N3-S-A2 renamed Milonga and sank in February 1965. She had an engine fire and started to leak off eastern Sardinia. She was on her way from Sfax for Genoa, in Gulf of Orosei. The crew abandoned ship, but lost three crewmen.[23]
  • Northern Adventurer a N3-S-A2, sank in 1964.
  • Samuel S. Curwen a N3-S-A2, renamed Northern Master then SS Hsuan Huai exploded and sank on 3 December 1948.Hsuan Huai was a Chinese troop ship. She was had 6,000 men from the province of Mantsjoekwo, in northwast China. She sank near Yingkou in the Yellow Sea.[24]
  • SS John Leckie a N3-S-A2, renamed SS Pensacola, sank in 5 Feb. 1966. She started leaking in rough sea after dry dock work. She was had a full cargo of grain. The crew abandoned ship and she sank 2 1/2 hours later. She sank in the Caribbean Sea off the southeast shore of Hispaniola, while on a voyage from Mobile, Alabama, to Port of Spain, Trinidad. [25][26]


  1. While essentially built for the same purpose they were not the sectional pre-fabricated and assembly-line produced (Chrysler) "Liberty Ships" as they are some time - if improperly, confused with.}


  1. T. Colton. "N-Type Coastal Cargo Ships". Merchant Ship Construction in U.S. Shipyards. Archived from the original on 3 November 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  2. David H. Grover (2004). "Lakers: The Ships That Bought Time" (PDF). "The Anchor Light" with copy published in "The Lightship-Lake Huron Lore. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  3. "The N-Type Vessels (Coastal)". Outboard Profiles of Maritime Commission Vessels. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  4. American World Traders-New Ships for the Merchant Marine (booklet). United States Maritime Commission. 1946. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  5. shipbuildinghistory.com, N-Type Coastal Cargo Ships
  6. shipstamps. "Houston". Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  7. marad.dot.gov, N3-S-A1 Type
  8. Grover, David (1987). U.S. Army Ships and Watercraft of World War II. Naval Institute Press. p. 48. ISBN 0-87021-766-6.)
  9. Masterson, James R. (1949). U. S. Army Transportation In The Southwest Pacific Area 1941-1947. Transportation Unit, Historical Division, Special Staff, United States Army. p. 351.
  10. "Cargo Ship (AK) Index". NavSource Photo Archives. NavSource. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  11. Stephen S. Roberts. "Class: ENCELADUS (AK-80)". ShipScribe. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  12. Stephen S. Roberts. "Class: BAK-1". ShipScribe. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  13. warsailors.com, John W. Arey
  14. /wrecksite.eu, Tully Crosby
  15. wrecksite.eu, Three Stars
  16. SS Freeman hatch, 4/5/2013
  17. wrecksite.eu, Alden Gifford
  18. plimsoll.org, Wreck report for 'Solidarity', 1951
  19. DNV, Lloyd, Starke, ship no. 2/03
  20. wrecksite.eu SS Kielce
  21. wrecksite.eu, Otis White
  22. The Daily Herald from Provo, Utah, 21 April 1958
  23. greatlakes, Samuel Samuels
  24. wrecksite.eu Hsuan Huai
  25. The Liability of Classification Societies, By Nicolai I. Lagoni, page 149-150
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