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USNS Mercury (T-AKR 10) on 1 July 1980.
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Class: MERCURY (T-AKR 10)
Design: MA C7-S-95a
Displacement (tons): 15,019 light, 33,900 load
Dimensions (feet): 684.75'oa, 640' pp x 102' x 32.083' mean
Accommodations: 19 officers, 55 unlicensed
Speed (kts.): 21 operating, 23 max
Propulsion (HP): 37,000
Machinery: Steam turbine, 2 high pressure boilers, 1 screw
|10||MERCURY||3 Jun 1980||Bath IW||16 Feb 1976||21 Dec 1976||Jun 1980|
|11||JUPITER||7 May 1980||Bath IW||27 Jan 1975||1 Nov 1975||May 1980|
|10||MERCURY||T||30 Apr 1993||No||Apr 1993||MA/RRF||--|
|11||JUPITER||T||6 Dec 1985||No||Dec 1985||RTO||--|
In 1972 the States Steamship Co. (or States Line) ordered four C7-S-95a ships from Bath Iron Works to carry both mixed and containerized cargo. A contract for three ships, MA hulls 279 (MAINE), 280 (ARIZONA), and 281 (NEVADA), was awarded on 30 June 1972 and a contract for one more, MA hull 295 (ILLINOIS), was awarded on 21 December 1972. These vessels differed from earlier C7 container ships in that they had an aft cargo ramp. Their service speed was 23 knots and the States Lines operated the vessels between the US west coast and Asian ports. Their service time with the States Line however was brief as high fuel prices and competition drove the company into bankruptcy in 1979. The first three, MAINE, ARIZONA, and NEVADA were sold in 1979 to the Lykes Lines, becoming respectively TYSON LYKES, LIPSCOMB LYKES, and CHARLES LYKES. The fourth, ILLINOIS, was temporarily laid up in MARAD custody under a court order. MAINE and NEVADA were still in Ready Reserve Force (RRF) status as of 30 April 2023 under the names CAPE INSCRIPTION and CAPE ISABEL.
On 1 March 1980 the U.S. activated a Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force as a new type of mobile force to respond to crises, initially in the Persian Gulf region. MSC was to provide this force with long term sustainability, and as of 8 May 1980 it planned to form a Near Term Rapid Deployment Force that was to operate for 3-5 years while appropriate ships were either converted or built for a permanent force. The initial Near-Term Prepositioned Force (NTPF) was to consist of USNS METEOR (T-AKR 9) plus six charter ships, including ILLINOIS (T-AKR 10), LIPSCOMB LYKES (T-AKR 11), two C4 cargo ships (AMERICAN COURIER, AK 2011, and AMERICAN CHALLENGER, AK 2012), and two undesignated tankers, later a SEALIFT (T-AOT 168) class tanker for POL and the chartered ZAPATA PATRIOT (AOT 1001) for water. (The hull classification symbols and numbers for the charter ships were described as merely "side numbers" for accounting purposes rather than official Navy designations.) ILLINOIS was then under a 19 year bareboat charter, LIPSCOMB LYKES was under a 5-year bareboat charter, and the two C4s were under merchant short-term charters. (T-AOT 168-176 and 182-185 were also being operated by MSC under bareboat charters.) Of the six ships only ILLINOIS had a long-term "life of the ship" charter that would qualify her under US Navy Regulations for designation as USNS, which MSC wanted but could not get for the other ships.
On 28 and 27 May 1981 respectively MSC time-chartered the foreign built RO/ROs CYGNUS and LYRA (ex RABENFELS and REICHENFELS) from Lykes, who had just purchased them from the German Hansa line. The ships were similar in size to AKR 10-11 but were diesel propelled. It was rumored that they were to become T-AKR 13 and 14 respectively but this is not confirmed in Navy records and is unlikely for time-chartered ships. MSC suspended the charter for CYGNUS on 12 November 1985 and returned the ship to Lykes on the same date. After time under a foreign flag CYGNUS was acquired by MARAD on 7 April 1993 for the NDRF and upgrade to RRF status. LYRA probably remained under time charter to MSC until she was acquired by MARAD on 5 February 1993, also for the NDRF and upgrade to RRF status. In the RRF, CYGNUS and LYRA became CAPE TAYLOR (on 28 June 1993) and CAPE TEXAS (on 8 February 1993) and were designated AKR 113 and 112 respectively for accounting purposes. They were still in RRF status as of 30 April 2023.
|10||MERCURY||295||Ex ILLINOIS. Delivered by builder 2 Jun 1977. Temporarly laid up under a court order at Suisun in MA custody 21 Mar 1979, returned at Suisun to States Steamship Co. on 15 Apr 1980 for charter to MSC, name change to USNS MERCURY and designation T-AKR 10 reported by MSC message of 19 May 1980, bareboat chartered by States to MSC 3 Jun 1980. From MSC to MA 30 Apr 1993 for NDRF and to be upgraded for RRF, renamed CAPE ISLAND 22 Jun 1993, still in RRF status 30 Apr 2023.|
|11||JUPITER||280||Ex LIPSCOMB LYKES, ex ARIZONA. Delivered by builder 8 Jun 1976. Delivered by States Steamship Co to MA and simultaneously to Lykes Bros. Steamship Co. on 29 Jan 1979, sold to Lykes and renamed LIPSCOMB LYKES 23 Mar 1979, bareboat chartered to MSC 7 May 1980, name change to USNS JUPITER and designation T-AKR 11 reported by MSC message of 19 May 1980. Charter ended 6 Dec 1985 and ship returned by MSC to Lykes. Acquired by MA from Lykes 20 Mar 1986 for RRF, delivered by Lykes 23 Apr 1986 at Suisun. Renamed from JUPITER to CAPE INTREPID Aug 1993, still in RRF status 30 Apr 2023.|
Compiled: 31 May 2023
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2023