Type C1 ship

Type C1 was a designation for small cargo ships built for the U.S. Maritime Commission before and during World War II. The first C1 types were the smallest of the three original Maritime Commission designs, meant for shorter routes where high speed and capacity were less important. Only a handful were delivered prior to Pearl Harbor. But many C1-A and C1-B ships were already in the works and were delivered during 1942. Many were converted to military purposes including troop-transports during the war.

The Type C1-M ship was a separate design, for a significantly smaller and shallower draft vessel. This design evolved as an answer for the projected needs for military transport and supply of the pacific island campaigns.


The United States Maritime Commission (MARCOM) was an independent executive agency of the US Federal government that was created by the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, passed by Congress on June 29, 1936 and replaced the U.S. Shipping Board which had existed since World War I. It was intended to formulate a merchant shipbuilding program to design and build five hundred modern merchant cargo ships to supplement and replace the World War I vintage vessels, including Hog Islander ships, that comprised the bulk of the U.S. Merchant Marine.

From 1939 through the end of World War II, MARCOM funded and administered the largest and most successful merchant shipbuilding effort in world history, producing thousands of ships, including Liberty ships, Victory ships, and others, notably type C1 ships, type C2 ships, type C3 , type C4 ships, T2 tankers, Landing Ship Tank(LST)s and patrol frigates. By the end of the war, U.S. shipyards working under MARCOM contracts had built a total of 5,777 oceangoing merchant and naval ships.

What was later known as the C1-A was among the three original cargo ship designs including the basic C2 and C3. The further developments included the C1-B which included minor changes and turbine engines, and then more radical departures for special needs to meet the exigencies of the war, including troop ships based on the C1-B. Deliveries of the C1-B began before the other models, in mid 1941.

The C series of ships differed from the Liberty and Victory ships. The first C series vessels were designed prior to hostilities and were meant to be commercially viable ships to modernize the US Merchant Marine, and reduce the US reliance on foreign shipping. The Liberty ships were a throwback to late 19th century British designs with reciprocating steam engines, but were very cheap to build in large quantities; Victory ships evolved from the Liberty ships but used modern turbine engines. The C series ships were more expensive to produce, but their economic viability lasted well into the late 1960s and early 1970s in military and merchant fleets. Several ships are still in operation.


The Type C1-A and C1-B ships were similar in design, All had a rated top speed of 14 knots. The primary difference between them was that C1-A ships were shelter deck ships, while C1-B ships were full scantling ships. There were many adaptations of the design for special purposes from hospital ships to petroleum gas carriers. The C1-M was the type with the largest production; it was a significant variation from the original C1 design in size, performance and profile; these were shorter, narrower, slower and the superstructure was farther toward the stern.

With the exception of ships built for specific shipping lines before the war, the majority of the C1-A and C1-B ships were given two-word names beginning with "Cape", such as SS "Cape Hatteras".


Forty-six Type C1-A ships were built at Pennsylvania Shipyards, Inc. in Beaumont, Texas, with another 19 being built by Pusey and Jones in Wilmington, Delaware. Most were built with diesel motors, though 19 were built with steam turbine engines. These were shelter deck ships, having a very light upper deck, the sides of which are open ports to the second or main deck.

The first keels were laid in 1939. Two of the Pusey and Jones ships were converted to PT boat tenders, before entering service, including the USS Cyrene (AGP-13).


The Type C1-B ships were built in six different yards, the majority at Consolidated Steel Corporation in Wilmington, California. All but ten of the C1-B ships had steam turbine engines; these were all built at Seattle-Tacoma SB Corp., Tacoma, Washington and Western Pipe & Steel Co., San Francisco, California, with each producing five ships. These were full scantling ships with three decks in which the frames hold the same dimensions as the upper deck. Full scantling ships have deck gear sufficient to completely unload their cargoes.

The C1-S-AY1 subtype of thirteen ships built by Albina Engine & Machine Works, Portland, Oregon, was modified from the C1-B design for use as troopships by Great Britain under lend-lease. These ships were all given two-word names beginning with "Empire", such as SS Empire Spearhead. The Empire Broadsword and Empire Javelin were lost at the Normandy Invasion, to a mine and submarine torpedo respectively.


The C1-M Type ships were a separate design from the C1-A and C1-B, meant for shorter runs and shallow harbors, either along the coasts, or for "island hopping" in the Pacific. These ships were shorter, narrower, and had less draft than the earlier C1 designs, and were rated at only convert|11|kn|km/h|0. The USS Alamosa (AK-156) is an example of a C1-M ship.

The C1-M-AV1 subtype, a general cargo ship with either one large diesel engine or a steam turbine engine, was the most numerous. About 215 of this type were built in ten different shipyards. Consolidated Steel Corp., Ltd. of Wilmington, California built the largest number — about a quarter of all built. These ships were either named for knots, such as SS "Emerald Knot", or with a two-word name beginning with "Coastal", such as SS "Coastal Ranger". About 65 of this subtype were complete for the U.S. Navy. Those ships were generally named after counties in the U.S.

One C1-ME-AV6 subype was built, SS "Coastal Liberator". Instead of the steam turbine engine, it had a diesel electric motor with 2,200 horsepower. Four of the C1-MT-BU1 subtype were built as lumber carriers, with twin screws. The lumber carriers were given U.S. State-and-tree names, such as SS "California Redwood".

The final subtype, C1-M-AV8, had a variable pitch propeller. Only one ship was planned as this type, but five previously launched C1-M-AV1 ships were converted to this type for France.

Final disposition

Many of these ships have been sold and scrapped but numerous examples are still in service with Non Governmental Organizations (NGO)s such as “Friend Ships”. That organization is still using the ex “Pembina” built in Superior Wisconsin and currently called the [http://www.friendships.org/FSFleetKnotClass.html "Spirit of Grace"] . Several are sailing in merchant service around the world making port calls and delivering cargo.

Type C1 specifications

Quantities of Type C1 ships

See also

* Type C2 ship
* Type C3 ship
* Type C4 ship
* T2 tanker
* Liberty ship
* Victory ship
* Hog Islander

Type C1 ships

*USS Fomalhaut (AK-22)
*USS Cyrene (AGP-13)


* [http://www.usmm.org/c1ships.html Type C1 ships page]
* [http://www.coltoncompany.com/shipbldg/ussbldrs/wwii/merchantsbldg.htm World War II Merchant Shipbuilding Records]
* [http://drawings.us-maritime-commission.de/drawings_c1.htm US Maritime Commission] Details and Outboard Profiles of Maritime Commission Vessels, The C1 Cargo Ship, Conversions and Subdesigns
* [http://www.us-maritime-commission.de/ US Maritime Commission overview]
* [http://techspec.us-maritime-commission.de/technical_specifications_Introduction.htm US Maritime Commission - Technical Specifications for Ships] including definitions of terms
*From America to United States: The History of the long-range Merchant Shipbuilding Programme of the United States Maritime Commission, by L.A. Sawyer and W.H. Mitchell. London, 1981, World Ship Society
*Ships for Victory: A History of Shipbuilding under the U.S. Maritime Commission in World War II, by Frederic C. Lane ISBN 0-8018-6752-5

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