The US Navy Ready Reserve Force vessel Wright arrived this afternoon and tied up at HMC Dockyard. The ship has been working off Halifax for the last several weeks, usually anchored off Hartlen's Point, east of the normal deep water anchorages.
The ship has an interesting history, and for that reason is a unique reminder of the pre-container era.
Originally launched in 1969 by Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula. LA, the ship was built to US Maritime Administration class C5-S-78. Although nominally a container ship, it was in fact among the last of the hydrids-built to general cargo ship lines, but fitted to carry containers too. It was powered by a huge 30,000 shp geared steam turbine plant capable of driving the ship at 25 knots. That would have been a sight worth seeing! Built for Moore-McCormack Lines, it was named Mormacsun, but saw little or no service for that line, which was in survival mode, selling off many of its ships. Mormacsun was turned back over too MarAd in 1970.
MarAd placed it in the hands of American Export Lines, then Farrell Lines to operate as Young American until 1986 when it was sent to Todd Galveston Shipyard for conversion into its present form.
It emerged as USNS Wright T-AVB3, an aviation logistics support vessel, but also as a RoRo container ship for military cargoes. It is fitted with helicopter landing and servicing facilities, but can also accommodate 300 troops and equipment if needed. According to Janes it is keep in ready reserve (5 days activation) in Baltimore. It also reportedly provides support for US Marines helicopters.
It may be in the latter role that it has been working off Halifax, because there has been a a lot of helicopter activity in recent weeks from the nearby Shearwater base.
As one of the last of its breed of high speed US merchant ships of the 1950s and 1960s it is a remarkable artifact. It must be one of the few remaining examples of ships built just before fully cellular container ships took over.