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USNS Schuyler Otis Bland (T-AK 277) on 13 December 1963.

USNS Schuyler Otis Bland (T-AK 277) on 13 December 1963.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Design: MC C3-S-DX1
Displacement (tons): 5,455 light, 15,910 full
Dimensions (feet): 478.2' oa, 450' wl/pp x 66.0' x 28.5' max
Armament: none
Accommodations: 16 officers, 35 unlicensed, 12 passengers
Speed (kts.): 17.2 operating, 19.0 max
Propulsion (HP): 10,000 operating, 13,750 max
Machinery: Geared steam turbines, 2 boilers (865psi/900deg), 1 screw

277SCHUYLER OTIS BLAND20 Jul 1961Ingalls, Pascagoula29 May 195030 Jan 195128 Aug 1961

AKNameTInactStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale
277SCHUYLER OTIS BLANDT197915 Aug 197928 Nov 1979MA/S--

Class Notes:
In January 1947 the Maritime Commission modeled a redesign of the C3 cargo ship designated C3-S-DB3 with higher speed (18.75-knot cruising), increased cargo capacity (an additional 1,500 tons deadweight), and more efficient cargo operation, but the ship, 25' longer overall than the C3, was never built. On 16 April 1948 President Truman sent the head of the Maritime Commission a letter urging development of modern merchant ships and added funds to the FY 1949 budget for the purpose. Development continued of a prototype that could be mass produced and that had 18.5 to 19 knot speed, efficient cargo operations, fewer crew, and wide port usage. The design also had to satisfy Navy requirements for use as a naval auxiliary, including the possibility of conversion to a 1,800 man troopship. The result was a ship with a 478' (overall) length, midway between the 459' C2 and the 492' C3, allowing worldwide port accessibility and production in medium-size shipyards. Its 450' waterline length put it in the Maritime Commission's C3 category. The beam was 66 feet, 3 feet less than the C3. Her engine room was 55' long against 51' in the Victory ship but with twice the horsepower. Bale cargo capacity was nearly 25 percent larger than that of the Victory ship with only a five percent increase in length. Her steam turbine plant operated at 865psi/900deg compared to the 440psi/740deg in most World War II C2 and C3 cargo ships and she was designed to produce 12,500hp and 18.5 knots on trials. One ship to this design, designated C3-S-DX1 (Freedom class), was ordered on 7 October 1949 as MC hull 2918, the last ship designed and numbered before the Maritime Commission became the Maritime Administration. On 24 May 1950 President Truman abolished the Maritime Commission, dividing its duties between a Federal Maritime Board and a Maritime Administration (MARAD) within the Department of Commerce.

Her appearance featured a low dummy funnel housing the upper conning station, ventilation intakes, and engine room skylight. Moving the two tall boiler uptakes immediately aft of this dummy funnel allowed a reversed machinery layout with the turbines and gearing forward of the two boilers. The design included the new cargo handling system proposed for the earlier C3-S-DB3 design which allowed single person control of the booms serving the hatches ("push-button" operation). Folding steel covers replaced the traditional tarpaulins on her five hatches. These were served by five massive goal posts, with twin five-ton booms serving the bow and stern hatches and two 5-ton and two 10-ton booms serving holds two, three, and four. A 50-ton heavy lift boom was also located between holds 2 and 3. The 12,500-hp propulsion plant was capable of sustaining a speed of 18.5 knots. Her hull and shafting had ice strengthening, which she used in Operation Deep Freeze in 1977 and again in 1979. (She was replaced there by USNS SOUTHERN CROSS, T-AK 285.) The ship lacked some features included in the later Mariner design, including air conditioning and private facilities for the crew, comfortable staterooms for the officers, and an alternating current electrical plant. (She retained direct current primarily for ease of controlling deck machinery.)

The ship was named for Congressman Schuyler Otis Bland, who was the father of the 1936 Merchant Marine Act and who died on 15 February 1950. She was delivered on 26 July 1951 under bareboat charter to the American President Lines (APL) and began her first commercial voyage in August 1951. A year later she was transferred on 25 July 1952 under a General Agency Agreement to the Waterman Steamship Corp. for operation for MSTS. She was laid up on 23 February 1954 in the Mobile, Ala., reserve fleet. By this time she had been sidelined as the C4 Mariner ships became the focus of future dry cargo ship operations. (See AG 153 for the history of the Mariner type.) She was reactivated on 26 July 1956 under bareboat charter to the American Mail Line to replace a damaged ship and operated commercially until being laid up on 27 October 1959 in the Olympia, Wash., reserve fleet.

Contingency studies for wartime mobilization were conducted in 1951-52 for conversions of the MC C3-S-DX1 type to an AE (SCB 99), AF (SCB 100), AVS (SCB 102), AK (SCB 105), AKS (SCB 106), and AKST (SCB 108). None of these conversions was carried out, although the type probably served as the starting point for the design of the AF 58 class. Similar studies were conducted for conversions of the MA C4-S-1a (Mariner) type to an AR (SCB 101), ARH (SCB 103), AK (SCB 104) and of an unknown type to an AD (SCB 107).

The original plan for Navy support of project ADVENT (a satellite communications system) called for selecting and demothballing a Victory type hull from the reserve fleet, but discussions between BUSHIPS and MSTS concluded that it would be more advantageous to the ADVENT program if a Victory ship of known material condition could be selected from the operational MSTS nucleus fleet and be replaced with a ship of equal capability from the NDRF. USNS KINGSPORT VICTORY (T-AK 239) was selected for project ADVENT, and SCHUYLER OTIS BLAND was found to be available at Olympia to replace her. The classification T-AK 277 was assigned to SCHUYLER OTIS BLAND effective 15 September 1961.

Ship Notes:
277SCHUYLER OTIS BLAND2918Completed 26 Jul 1951. Permanent transfer from MA 20 Jul 1961 under FY 1962 to replace KINGSPORT VICTORY as an AK in point-to-point service, on list 15 Sep 1961. From Navy and sold at Guam by MA 28 Nov 1979 to BU.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 7 Aug 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Special sources: "Schuyler Otis Bland, C3-S-DX1 Prototype: A Real S.O.B." and "Not a bland powerplant, Prototype Schuyler Otis Bland," both by Captain Terry Tilton, USN, Ret., in PowerShips (the journal of the Steamship Historical Society of America) No. 316 (Winter 2021) pp. 18-35; NARA: RG 19 Entry UD 1024-A Box 1 (mobilization designs)