In order to meet its ambitious 500-ship goal, the U.S. Maritime Commission turned to a concept that had been used with some success by its predecessor during World War I; design standardization. Traditionally, shipping lines designed their vessels to service specific routes; this made each ship well-suited to its trade. The Commission’s standard designs were generic but easily adaptable, modern, safe, well-appointed, efficient and fast.
The Commission’s basic designs, named “C1,” “C2,” and “C3” to denote that they were cargo ships of increasing capacity and length, were a great step forward in ship design. Efficient and powerful engines, both steam turbine and diesel, combined with modern cargo equipment, fire-retardant fixtures, and improved crew and passenger living spaces, made the vessels popular with both commercial operators and the U.S. Navy. In fact, many of the navy’s auxiliary ships during World War II were Maritime Commission “C” ships.