In the July 2018 issue of Sea Breezes, Brian West was enquiring on the evolution of WWII Liberty type cargo ships.
The idea of a standard type cargo ship was always an aspiration of shipbuilders, particularly Cyril Thompson of Sunderland. Building ships in large numbers, required vast areas of real estate, large work forces and an unimpeded work environment from the travails of war. Thompson went to North America and saw his ideas incorporated into cargo vessels of the Ocean type (USA) and the Forts and Parks (Canada). Many of those ship types were assigned for British use and were assimilated into Britain’s own production programme as “Empire” ships.
The US Government wanted to increase both output and standardisation of construction methods. Largely through the yards of Henry Kaiser, himself not a shipbuilder, but a mass production innovator, a 10,000 ton cargo vessel evolved, with oil fired engine, and modular units brought together for assembly by welding. The ship was produced at 18 yards at individual rates of less than two months per ship.
At the height of production, they were collectively turning out three completed ships per day. The target was to build ships faster than they could be sunk. In all, 2710 ships were built between 1941-1945.
Britain got about 200 Liberty’s all with the prefix ‘Sam’ eg SS Samarkand which went to Blue Funnel Line. Some thought that ‘Sam’ was because of US ownership, but it is stated to refer to the fact the ship was designed with its Structure Aft of Midships.
Mitchel and Sawyer, who published ‘Empire Ships’, Lloyds Publishing, have also produced two editions on the Liberty ships. Much information on these fine ships is also widely available in all maritime publications and on the internet.
Co Cork, Ireland