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USNS Point Barrow (T-AKD 1) on 18 September 1959.

USNS Point Barrow (T-AKD 1) on 18 September 1959.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Design: MA S2-ST-23a
Displacement (tons): 6,100 light, 10,615 full
Dimensions (feet): 465' oa, 435' wl x 74' e, 72' wl x 20' ext nav
Armament: none
Accommodations: 16 officers, 50 nonlicensed, plus 42 passengers
Speed (kts.): 15
Propulsion (HP): 6,000
Machinery: Geared steam turbines, 2 boilers, 2 screws

1POINT BARROW5 Aug 1955Maryland SB & DD18 Sep 195625 May 195728 May 1958

AKDNameTInactStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale
1POINT BARROWT27 Sep 199328 Sep 199318 Dec 1998MA/T15 Dec 2005

Class Notes:
In July 1953, the Secretary of Defense appointed a special committee to study Northern American air defences against Soviet nuclear bombers attempting to penetrate American airspace from over the North Pole. In August 1953 the Soviet Union detonated its first hydrogen bomb. On 6 October 1953 the National Security Council approved a plan that included building a string of radar outposts, the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, across northern Canada and Greenland during the next five years. Getting the materials and supplies to the sites would involve a major transportation project in an Arctic environment, and the Air Force asked MSTS to move this cargo by sealift starting in the summer of 1955. Up to then no large ocean-going ship had attempted to navigate the waters east of Point Barrow, Alaska or west of Baffin Island. By January 1954 MSTS had added to its Long-Range Ship Construction Program (which already contained a prototype roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship, AK 269, to support the Army in Germany) six ice-strengthened ships to support construction of the DEW Line. These were one cargo ship (dock) (initially called an "LSD" but called an AKD from September 1954), two small tankers (AOG 81-82), and three small cargo ships (AK 270-272). In early 1954 MSTS requested a special appropriation of $50 million in Fiscal Year 1955 to build these seven ships. On 30 June 1954 the President signed the Defense Department Appropriation Act of 1955, which included the special $50 million MSTS appropriation.

On 19 January 1954 BUSHIPS submitted to MSTS cost estimates for the seven ships in the MSTS program and it revised these on 28 January 1954 after MSTS specified that for the cargo ship (dock) it wanted a ship of 7,000 SHP, 2 screws, 4,990 light displacement tons, ice strengthened, with turbine reduction propulsion and a crew of 50 men. It stated that plans for ships of the LSD 13 class adapted for ice strengthening would be satisfactory. Given that that only very minor changes from the WWII LSD were involved, BUSHIPS decided to have its own Hull Design branch (Code 440) prepare the contract plans and specifications. However on 14 May 1954 MSTS informed BUSHIPS that the LSD-13 class hull was indeed to be used but was to be modified to include ice strengthening by means of intermediate framing and a continuous ice belt around the hull. The ship, other than hull structure, was to be designed in compliance with Coast Guard standards for cargo ships. Arcticizing was to be based on information soon to be furnished by MSTS. MSTS also wanted machinery and electrical specifications and standards to be in accordance with USCG and ABS standards, and it also desired higher pressure and higher temperature steam conditions than those of the WWII design. On 19 May 1954 BUSHIPS informed MSTS that these changes would require preparation of contract plans and specifications by a design agent instead of within the Bureau. As these were large, specialized ships quite different from any merchant type, a recommendation was made within BUSHIPS that the work be assigned to a design agent that had done LSD designs, specifically Gibbs and Cox.

MSTS pushed back on the increased cost estimates on 8 July 1954, stating that it only wanted adaptations of presently existing plans to produce a vessel that would be basically the same as the LSD 13 class except for changes in hull reinforcement, quarters and machinery space rearrangements and the provision of a modern comparatively simple commercial steam plant consisting of two boilers with turbine and gear sets and two condensers. BUSHIPS replied on 11 August 1954 that incorporation of an HTS ice belt around the entire waterline area with its associated internal stiffening, the rearrangement of all spaces from the main deck up, general cold weather provisions throughout the ship, and the redesignation and anticipated rearrangement of numerous spaces in the second and third deck now occupied by military features, would require that nearly all LSD 13 hull plans be redrawn. It also stated that preliminary machinery arrangement studies had revealed that machinery spaces in the LSD 13 hull were not suitable for the modern machinery plant contemplated for the vessel, would require structural modifications in machinery spaces, and might still not be able to accommodate the optimum boiler design. The Bureau also stated that the hull form of the LSD 28 class, a modern LSD design but larger than required by MSTS, would require about 15% less power to make the design speed than that of LSD 13 if it were geometrically reduced to the general dimensions of LSD 13, and that it was estimated that the differences in cost between modifying LSD 13 hull plans and developing a new hull adapted from LSD 28 would be minimal. On 20 August 1954 MSTS concurred with the change to an LSD 28 based design with the hull form geometrically reduced for a length between perpendiculars of about 450 feet.

On 17 August 1954 BUSHIPS approved specifications for the cargo ship (dock) design that included:
Mission and primary task: For the sea transportation on a point-to-point schedule of assembled large landing craft, amphibious vehicles and lighterage for cargo operations in Arctic areas.
Secondary task: To transport LVT’s, sleds and “Sno-Cats” for “over-the-ice” operations.
Approximate hull characteristics: Length 450’ LBP, draft not over 19’, form similar to LSD 28 but reduced to 450’pp, sustained sea speed 15 knots, ice strengthened, width, length, and depth of water over the blocks of the dock similar to that of the LSD 13 class with 3 operative LCU’s, twin screws.
Ice-strengthening: An ice belt completely encircling the hull. The ice belt shall be made of HTS and shall extend from 3 feet above deep load line to 3 feet below light load line. Specially reinforced bow including additional thickness of plating and intermediate frames. Additional reinforcing in remainder of the hull adequately to support the ice belt. The ship shall not be expected to withstand the pressure of pack ice.
Cargo handling: Provision shall be made for 35-ton cranes, port and starboard, for handling LVT’s, “sno-cats”, and sleds to and from the well deck.
Propulsion plant: Geared turbines and boilers operating at 600 psi and 850degF. Plant of modern design to commercial specifications.
Berthing: 22 officers, 6 CPO’s, 57 enlisted, 36 transient landing craft personnel.
Miscellaneous: A removable or retractable superdeck capable of supporting 14 LVT’s is to be provided comprising special deck panels and transverse beams. Deck sections to be handled by a traveling bridge crane. Cargo deck area and facilities to be similar to those in the LSD 13 class.

On 20 August 1954 MSTS reported to CNO that design work and planning on the six ice-strengthened ships had progressed to the state where it was considered most desirable that they be assigned vessel type numbers. MSTS noted that although the cargo ship dock had a dock and cranes similar to the Navy LSD there were certain basic differences which suggested that this identification should not be used. The ship was being designed for the primary purpose of transporting assembled landing craft such as LCU’s and heavy construction equipment, up to 75 tons in weight, in point-to-point service. It would not be provided with shops and repair facilities other than those required to maintain the ship nor would it be provided with space for the accommodation of repair personnel. (In the LSD these would probably have been on a mezzanine deck which the MSTS ship lacked.) MSTS recommended that the ship be designated as a special cargo ship and a new vessel type, AKD, be established to identify this type. CNO on 21 September 1954 authorized BUSHIPS to assign the hull numbers, nomenclature and classifications and stated that a change to SECNAVINST 5030.1 would include the new classification “Cargo Ship Dock (AKD).”

On 10 January 1955 the preliminary design was near completion and the BUSHIPS Preliminary Design Branch (Code 420) asked for construction cost estimates based on the following characteristics: Length 462’0”oa, 450’0”design wl, 435’0”pp, 74’0” beam at main deck (molded), 17’10” draft (full load), 5,680t light displ, 9,190t full load displ, 15 kts sustained. Ice belt either HTS normalized of A.B.S. class “c” steel, complement of 28 officers and 99 enlisted including transients,, 6,000 SHP, steam at 450 psig and 750degF, two geared turbines, 2 boilers. Code 420 reported on 7 February 1955 that the preliminary design had been completed subject to favorable model tests and other conditions and transferred cognizance of the program to the Hull Design Branch (Code 440). The MARAD design designation S2-ST-23a for AKD 1 was first mentioned on 18 February 1955. Gibbs and Cox completed the contract design for AKD 1 on 15 April 1955. CNO approved the plans on 21 April 1955, MSTS approved them on 22 April 1955, and BUSHIPS released them to MARAD for construction on the same date. On 29 April 1955 the BUSHIPS Ship Design Division (Code 410) reported that the specifications and contract plans had been completed and delivered to Code 529 (Auxiliaries) and to MARAD, and it transferred technical control to the Ship Technical Division. Bids for the ship were opened on 22 July 1955. On 29 July 1955 BUSHIPS wrote to MARAD that, after careful analysis of the information in the bids, it desired that MARAD award the contract for construction to the Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. (which was also the low bidder). The Cargo Ship Dock (AKD) was noted on 28 June 1956 to be a new type similar to the Dock Landing Ship (LSD) but for logistics use, and on 8 August 1956 she was numbered AKD 1 and named POINT BARROW for the northernmost point in the Arctic where a Dew Line site was being built and which was to be a focal point of the ship's operations. The name was recommended by an officer in MSTS. POINT BARROW was delivered in March 1958. In the meantime LINDENWALD (LSD 6) and WHITE MARSH (LSD 8) had been decommissioned and assigned to MSTS from 1956 to 1958 and 1960 respectively for operations in the Arctic. Back in 1948 LINDENWALD and GUNSTON HALL (LSD 5) had been winterized under SCB Project 29 to support operations in the Arctic.

Resembling a Navy landing ship dock (LSD), POINT BARROW was ice strengthened by double framing at the bow and by encircling the hull with an ‘ice belt’ of 1 inch HTS. It had fiberglass hull insulation to protect the crew and equipment from the cold. The stern docking well allowed the ship to transport landing craft for over-the-shore discharge of cargo and small tugs for the mooring of ships. Except for military capabilities it could perform all of the functions of an LSD. It could carry three fully loaded LCUs in its well and 14 LVTs on its partially demountable superdeck.

In 1958 the Distant Early Warning Line went into full operation. Support of the line's radar stations shifted mostly to the Air Force and Canada, and by 1960 the DEW Line support responsibilities of MSTS were limited to Thule and Goose Bay. POINT BARROW, no longer needed in the Arctic, was modified in 1964-65 to carry Saturn rocket boosters to Cape Kennedy for the Apollo program.

In December 1973, the deep submergence vehicle (bathyscaphe) TRIESTE II (DSV-1) entered Mare Island Naval Shipyard for overhaul. Shortly after, both of her support ships, USS APACHE (ATF67) and USS WHITE SANDS (AGDS-1, q.v.) were decommissioned. POINT BARROW (AKD 1) was selected as her new support ship. On 14 Feb 1974 POINT BARROW was ordered to be placed "In Commission, Special" on 26 Feb 1974 and, when determined ready on or about 31 January 1975, was to be placed in full commission and assigned to duty in the Submarine Force, Pacific Fleeet. On 20 Feb 1974 the ship's new operational commander requested a name change to POINT LOMA as the Coast Guard had a POINT BARROW and the new support ship was to be based at Point Loma (San Diego). The name POINT BARROW (AKD 1) was changed to POINT LOMA (AGDS 2) by message on 23 Feb 1974 with a formal name notice to follow. On 25 Feb 1974 the prospective commissioning date was slipped two days to 28 Feb 1974, when she was placed in commission, special. On 8 March 1974 SECNAV cancelled the AGDS classification (Auxiliary Deep Submergence Support Vehicle) in the service craft category that had been used for WHITE SANDS and established a new AGDS classification (Auxiliary Deep Submergence Support Ship) in the auxiliary vessels category for POINT LOMA, changing "vehicle" to "ship." He also reported that the change of designation for POINT LOMA from AKD 1 to AGDS 2 had become effective on 28 February. TRIESTE II departed the shipyard in May 1975 and embarked in POINT LOMA for the first time in February 1977. In August 1980 TRIESTE II was placed in a reduced operating status, and POINT LOMA later supported TRIDENT SLBM test launches as a missile range instrumentation ship (although not so classified) with four small sensor domes on her forecastle.

Ship Notes:
1POINT BARROW43FY 1955 (MSTS). Probably delivered by builder 9 May 1958, delivered to MSTS 28 May 1958, and placed in service the next day. Decomm. 1 Oct 1986 and to MSC. Inactivated 27 Sep 1993, strike approved 28 Sep 1993, to MA custody in SBRF 4 Oct 1993. Navy contract for BU 29 Sep 1995 and withdrawn 8 Feb 1996 but contract cancelled by Navy, ship repossessed 30 Jul 1997 and to MA for disposal. To MA custody from Mare Is. 10 Sep 1998. Departed SBRF 15 Feb 2006 for Brownsville (All Star Metals). Scrapping completed 27 Oct 2006 by Marine Metal Inc, Brownsville.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 7 Aug 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Special sources: NARA: RG 19 Entry P 62 boxes 25-26 and 28.