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MV Falcon Lady (later USNS Columbia, T-AO 182) probably with USNS Taluga (T-AO 62) circa 1974-75.

MV Falcon Lady (later USNS Columbia, T-AO 182) probably with USNS Taluga (T-AO 62) circa 1974-75.
Falcon Lady was then under bareboat charter to MSC manned by Civil Service Marine personnel.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class: COLUMBIA (T-AO 182)
Design: Private
Displacement (tons): 12,300 light, 45,877 full
Dimensions (feet): 672.3 oa, 638 pp x 89 x 36.2
Armament: none
Accommodations: 27
Speed (kts.): 16.5
Propulsion (BHP): 15,000 (16,000 in FALCON LADY)
Machinery: Medium-speed diesel, 1 screw

Construction:
T-AONameAcqBuilderKeelLaunchSvc
182COLUMBIAJan 1976Ingalls, Pascagoula East23 Oct 196812 Sep 197015 Jan 1976
183NECHESFeb 1976Ingalls, Pascagoula East30 Dec 196830 Jan 1971Feb 1976
184HUDSONApr 1976Ingalls, Pascagoula East8 Feb 19718 Jan 197223 Apr 1976
185SUSQUEHANNAMay 1976Ingalls, Pascagoula East20 Nov 19702 Oct 197111 May 1976

Disposition:
T-AONameTInact/CustStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale/Depart
182COLUMBIAT21 May 1984None?21 May 1984RTO5 Jul 2012/D
183NECHEST2 Oct 1983None?2 Oct 1983RTO--
184HUDSONT5 Feb 1984None?5 Feb 1984RTO--
185SUSQUEHANNAT14 May 1984None?14 May 1984RTO--

Class Notes:
Besides replacing its World War II T2's (see the AO 168 class), MSC also wanted to augment its T5's (primarily the T-AO 149 class) with additional larger and more fuel efficient ships. A build-and-charter arrangement was made in October 1967 with Falcon Carriers, Inc. (later Falcon Tankers), to build four 37,000 dwt tankers with Government aid in the form of mortgage insurance. These ships used the latest technology including medium-speed diesel engines and automated pump rooms to reduce their crew requirements to 23 instead of the 40 on the older T-5s and the 39 on the T-2s. The diesel engines were built by Chantiers de l'Atlantique (France) except for FALCON LADY whose engines came from Crossley-Premier Engines Ltd. (UK). Completion of FALCON LADY was delayed by the need to have the British engines reconditioned by Fairbanks Morse. The original keels of the last two were laid down in 1969 but taken up and stored, perhaps because of a need to change their engines.

The owner of the ships, Iranian Destiny Tankers Inc., soon suffered financial problems causing the material condition of the ships to deteriorate. FALCON PRINCESS required over $1 million in repairs to put back into operation. In April 1972 MSC re-negotiated with the owner to bareboat-charter the tankers and replace the owner's crews with MSC civilian mariners. A memo of 4 December 1975 based on a MSC message of 3 December 1975 stated that MSC bareboat chartered tankers were designated as "Active status, In service" United States naval ships, and that in order to enhance this designation and the status of the ships as U.S. public vessels the names of T-AO 181 to 185 would be changed in the near future, including MV FALCON LADY to USNS COLUMBIA, MV FALCON DUCHESS to USNS NECHES, MV FALCON PRINCESS to USNS HUDSON, and MV FALCON COUNTESS to USNS SUSQUEHANNA. The four Falcon tankers when renamed would be referred to as the MSC COLUMBIA class tankers. In 1978 the navy created the new classification symbol AOT, "Transport Oiler," for the MSC tankers that carried oil from point to point rather than delivering it to fleet units, and on 14 Sep 1978 effective 30 Sep 1978 CNO reclassified AO 182-185 to AOT 182-185.

The four Falcon tankers were all returned to their owners (RTO) in 1983-84. COLUMBIA was later reacquired by the Maritime Administration as MISSION CAPISTRANO while the other three operated under commercial charters until going to the breakers between 1993 and 2001.

Ship Notes:
T-AONameMANotes
182COLUMBIAEx-FALCON LADY, completed 11 Mar 1971 (Yard 1162). To MSC under consecutive voyage charter 15 Mar 1971. Transferred from Falcon Tankers to MSC 3 May 1974. Renamed COLUMBIA by MSC 16 Jan 1976 effective 12 Jan 1976 and delivered to contract operator 30 Apr 1976. To AOT Sep 1979. Redelivered from contract operator to MSC and simultaneously returned to Falcon Tankers 21 May 1984, name reverted to FALCON LADY. Renamed MISSION CAPISTRANO (AOT 5005) Dec 1987 when preparing for MA takeover for the Ready Reserve Force (RRF). RRF in the Beaumont Reserve Fleet (BRF) from Mar 1988. Activated Feb 1991 for Desert Storm, back to RRF in the BRF Mar 1991. Title to MA 1 Sep 2004 and downgraded to NDRF retention same date, to non-retention Jul 2006. Withdrawn 5 Jul 2012, departed under domestic sale.
183NECHESEx-FALCON DUCHESS, completed 4 Aug 1971 (Yard 1163). To MSC under consecutive voyage charter ca. 1971. Transferred from Falcon Tankers to MSC 3 May 1974. Renamed NECHES by MSC 11 Feb 1976 and to contract operator 16 Apr 1976. To AOT Sep 1979. Redelivered from contract operator to MSC and simultaneously returned to Falcon Tankers 2 Oct 1983, name reverted to FALCON DUCHESS. Chartered May 1984 as ECLIPSE, changed ownership 1 Aug 1985 and again reverted to FALCON DUCHESS. Merc DUCHESS 18 Jun 1992. BU Gadani Beach 18 Dec 1997
184HUDSONEx-FALCON PRINCESS, completed 4 May 72 (Yard 1165). To MSC under consecutive voyage charter 4 May 1972. Transferred from Falcon Tankers to MSC 10 Apr 1974. Renamed HUDSON by MSC 19 Mar 1976 and delivered to contract operator 26 Apr 1976. To AOT Sep 1979. Redelivered from contract operator to MSC and simultaneously returned to Falcon Tankers 5 Feb 1984, reverted to FALCON PRINCESS. Merc SEA PRINCESS 30 Nov 1993. BU Chittagong 6 Mar 2001
185SUSQUEHANNAEx-FALCON COUNTESS, completed 13 Jan 1972 (Yard 1164). To MSC under consecutive voyage charter Jan 1972. Transferred from Falcon Tankers to MSC 17 Apr 1974. Renamed SUSQUEHANNA by MSC 19 Mar 1976 and delivered to contract operator 17 May 1976. To AOT Sep 1979. Redelivered from contract operator to MSC and simultaneously returned to Falcon Tankers 14 May 1984, reverted to FALCON COUNTESS. BU Alang 6 Dec 1993, beached 26 Jan 1994

Page Notes:
Compiled: 18 Sep 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Sources: "Tankers: Fuel for Thought (Military Sea Transportation Service Tankers," by Salvatore R. Mercogliano, at American Merchant Marine at War, www.usmm.org, http://www.usmm.org/msts/tankers.html