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USNS Vega (T-AK 286), an FBM resupply ship.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class: NORTHERN LIGHT (T-AK 284) and VEGA (T-AK 286), MA type C3-S-33a
Design: MA C3-S-33a
Displacement (tons): 5,846 light, 18,365 full
Dimensions (feet): 483.25' oa, 458' pp x 68.1' x 31.4' max
Armament: none
Accommodations: 49 plus 12 passengers plus emergency berthing for 400
Speed (kts.): 18
Propulsion (HP): 12,100
Machinery: Geared steam turbines, 2 boilers (465psi/750deg), 1 screw

284NORTHERN LIGHT22 Apr 1980Sun SB/DD, Chester, Pa.1 Jun 196029 Jun 196122 Apr 1980
285SOUTHERN CROSS30 Apr 1980Sun SB/DD, Chester, Pa.15 Feb 196123 Jan 19621 May 1980
286VEGA19 Apr 1981Sun SB/DD, Chester, Pa.4 May 195912 May 19604(18) Mar 1983

AKNameTInact/custodyStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale/Depart
284NORTHERN LIGHTT22 Oct 1984/Cnone?1 Oct 2000MA/T28 Jan 2014
285SOUTHERN CROSST13 Sep 1984none?7 Oct 1994MA/T20 Dec 2007
286VEGAT28 Apr 1994/C7 Nov 19941 Apr 1998MA/T28 Apr 2000/D

Class Notes:
In early 1958 the Maritime Administration began contracting for C3-size breakbulk cargo ships for major U.S. shipping lines. It began in 1958 with the C3-S-38a for the American Export Lines, the C3-S-37a for Lykes Bros., and the C3-S-33a for the Moore-McCormack Lines. These were followed in 1959 by the C3-S-46a for American Export Lines and the C3-S-43a for the Mississippi Shipping Co. Moore-McCormack ordered eight C3-S-33a ships in 1958-60 (six from Sun SB, Chester, Pa.), MA hulls 67-70, 75-77, and 98, and then shifted in 1962 to the larger C4-S-60a design and in 1966 to the even larger C5-S-78a design.

Moore McCormack turned in MORMACCOVE (MA hull 77) under Trade-in Build to the MA on 3 Dec 1976 and she entered the JRRF on 16 March 1977. On 27 May 1977 the MA shortened her name to COVE and placed her in RRF status. Moore McCormack later turned in MORMACTRADE (MA hull 98) under Trade-in Build to the MA on 15 February 1980 at Savannah, Ga. MSC acquired both ships in April 1980, MORMACTRADE "as is, where is" at Savannah. COVE was destined for Arctic operations to replace the ice-strengthened Victory ship PVT JOHN R TOWLE (T-AK 240) and was renamed NORTHERN LIGHT (T-AK 284) while MORMACTRADE was destined for Antarctic operations to replace the ice-strengthened SCHUYLER OTIS BLAND (T-AK 277) and was renamed SOUTHERN CROSS (T-AK 285). When refitted for MSC both were ice-strengthened. NORTHERN LIGHT reportedly had her bow modified, increasing her overall length by 4'4", but this is not confirmed by available photos. The new names and hull numbers for both ships were disseminated by MSC on 19 May 1980 although assigned earlier. The ships were initially allocated to MSC Atlantic for Arctic East ops (NORTHERN LIGHT) and MSC Pacific, later MSC Far East, for Operation Deep Freeze (SOUTHERN CROSS). By the end of 1983 NORTHERN LIGHT was on the Diego Garcia shuttle while SOUTHERN CROSS covered both arctic regions, and both may have ended their short careers as prepositioning ships in the Indian Ocean.

Moore-McCormack passed the title to MORMACBAY (MA hull 68) to States SS Co. on 28 January 1977 and they turned her in under Trade-in Build to the MA on 3 June 1977. She entered the JRRF 13 June 1977. On 28 June 1977 the MA shortened her name to BAY and placed her in RRF status. The Navy began planning in early 1979 to convert her into a fifth FBM cargo ship, called within BUSHIPS "T-AK5 (FBM)." The name KINGS BAY was proposed for the ship on 30 April 1979 and when in May 1979 NORWALK (T-AK 279) was scheduled for inactivation plans were made to transfer equipment directly from her to BAY before NORWALK proceeded to her conversion yard. All decisions were then delayed until FY 1981 funding materialized and a contract was let. The Navy notified MARAD on 9 July 1980 that it was considering BAY for conversion to an AK-FBM and on 19 April 1981 (reported on 29 April 1981) the ship was withdrawn from the JRRF and transferred to the Navy for conversion. On 15 October 1981 SECNAV approved the name VEGA for T-AK 286. The ship was converted at Boland Marine and Manufacturing, New Orleans, from May 1982 to March 1983 with 16 vertical storage tubes for Trident missiles arranged as in the four earlier Victory ships and with a rig including one 75-ton capacity cargo boom and 12 smaller ones. She was civilan manned except for a 7-man Navy security detachment. She completed conversion shortly after VICTORIA (T-AK 281) left service and effectively replaced her.

The other three Sun-built C3-S-33a MORMAC sisters (MA hulls 67 and 75-76) were traded in to the MA and laid up in the JRRF in February-March 1977, had their names shortened to PRIDE, LAKE, and SCAN by the MA on 27 May 1977, were moved to the Sun Shipyard at Chester, Pa., in August-September 1980 for RRF outfitting, and were then outported to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for RRF berthing. While at Philadelphia SCAN also served as a cargo handling training ship for the Navy. The Navy soon developed plans to acquire LAKE and SCAN for conversion with FY 1985 funds to surveying ships T-AGS 39-40, and Top Level Requirements for an Auxiliary Survey Ship (T-AGS) were promulgated on 21 June 1982. They were to join H H HESS (T-AGS 38, q.v.) and WYMAN (T-AGS 34) as deep-ocean survey ships supporting the Trident SSBN program. Congressional redirection caused the Navy in November 1983 to instead build new ships, and new Top Level Requirements for T-AGS 39 was promulgated on 21 August 1984. The new ships, MAURY (AGS 39, named 3 Dec 1984) and TANNER (AGS 40, named 24 Jan 1985), were failures primarily because of their complex propulsion systems, and they finally found non-naval homes in 1994 as training ships for the California and Maine Maritime Academies respectively. LAKE and SCAN were downgraded from RRF to NDRF status in 2004 and completed scrapping in 2008.

Ship Notes:
284NORTHERN LIGHT77Ex COVE, ex MORMACCOVE, delivered 29 Sep 1961. Permanent transfer to MSC and withdrawn from NDRF 22 Apr 1980, renamed NORTHERN LIGHT. Converted by Todd Shipyard, San Pedro, Cal. Returned by MSC to MA custody (layup) in SBRF in RRF status 22 Oct 1984, outported by MA to Port of Portland, Ore. 3 Apr 1986. Activated 24 Aug 1990-Sep 1991 for DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM. Re-entered SBRF in RRF status 19 Apr 1993. Downgraded from RRF to NDRF retention 1 Oct 2000 and to NDRF non retention 1 Oct 2004. Scrap contract concluded with ESCO Marine, Inc., Brownsville, Tx., 28 Jan 2014, dismantlement complete 17 Dec 2014.
285SOUTHERN CROSS98Ex MORMACTRADE, delivered 12 Apr 1962. From MA to MSC 20 Apr 1980. Renamed SOUTHERN CROSS 22 Apr 1980. Formal custody from MA to MSC 30 Apr 1980. Converted by the Savannah Machine & Foundry Co. Out of service 13 Sep 1984, began refit for RRF Feb 1985. Returned by MSC and re-entered JRRF 22 Jul 1985 in RRF status, outported by MA to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard 16 Dec 1985. Returned to JRRF 15 Apr 1991. Outported 27 Oct 1992 to Quincy, Mass as a training platform for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy's sealift training program, returned to JRRF from Quincy 12 Aug 1997. Downgraded from RRF to NDRF retention status 7 Oct 1994 and to NDRF non retention 1 Oct 2004. Sold for scrapping 24 August 2007 to North American Ship Recycling, Sparrows Point, MD., who defaulted; scrapping contract re-awarded to ESCO Marine, Brownsville, Tx., 20 Dec 2007. Fully dismantled 14 Aug 2008.
286VEGA68Ex BAY, ex MORMACBAY, delivered 14 Oct 1960. Permanent transfer to Navy and withdrawn from JRRF 19 Apr 1981. Renamed 15 Oct 1981. Returned by MSC 28 April 1994 to MA custody in the JRRF in Navy non-retention status. Title transfer to MARAD 1 Apr 1998, changed from Navy to NDRF non retention status, and offered for sale. Scrapping contract awarded to Transforma 31 Mar 1999. Towed from JRRF 28 Apr 2000 enroute to D & D Steel Co, Brownsville, Tx, for scrapping.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 30 Jan 2023
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2023