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Type N3 ship
Maritime Commission N3-S-A1.jpg
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 & 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)

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


All of the 36 N3-S-A1 vessels, delivered from December 1942 through May 1945, went to Britain and those surviving the war tended to be sold commercial with one, built as the Freeman Hatch and lastly named Houston, gaining some notoriety being sunk during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.[1][5]


Of the 76 proposed N3-S-A2 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.[6] 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.[7] 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).[1][8]


N3-M-A1 as USS Enceladus (AK-80), August 1943 in original Navy configuration. Note Whirley crane, a part of the original N3-M-A1 design.

A third variant, the N3-M-A1, 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.[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.[9] 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. [10] 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.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 T. Colton. "N-Type Coastal Cargo Ships". Merchant Ship Construction in U.S. Shipyards. Retrieved 12 January 2012. 
  2. David H. Grover (2004). "Lakers: The Ships That Bought Time". "The Anchor Light" with copy published in "The Lightship-Lake Huron Lore.,%20%20No%201,%20%20Jan-Feb%202005.pdf. 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. shipstamps. "Houston". Retrieved 12 January 2012. 
  6. Grover, David (1987). U.S. Army Ships and Watercraft of World War II. Naval Institute Press. p. 48. ISBN 0-87021-766-6. )
  7. 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. 
  8. "Cargo Ship (AK) Index". NavSource Photo Archives. NavSource. Retrieved 12 January 2012. 
  9. Stephen S. Roberts. "Class: ENCELADUS (AK-80)". ShipScribe. Retrieved 4 January 2012. 
  10. Stephen S. Roberts. "Class: BAK-1". ShipScribe. Retrieved 13 January 2012. 

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