The Maritime Commission designed this coastal cargo ship to be used by the British Ministry of War Transport and all 36 built were transferred to that country as part of the Lend-Lease program. The vessels were among the smallest self-propelled cargo ships produced by the U.S. Maritime Commission: just 258 feet and a dead weight capacity of 2,817 tons.
A more specialized replacement for the Ocean-class vessels and Liberty Ships that the United States had supplied to Britain since 1941, N3s were designed specifically to serve the needs of the British merchant marine. Their steam engines were coal-fired, owing to the shortage of oil in Britain at the time, and the vessel’s layout positioned the cargo-handling equipment to allow cargo to be carried on the weather deck.
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The Maritime Commission also built 59 N3-S-A2 design vessels; very similar to the A1 type except that their engines were oil-fired, a common arrangement for Maritime Commission-built vessels. The U.S. Army used these ships in the southwest Pacific through the end of World War II and into the 1950s.
The U.S. Government lent some N-type vessels to other allied nations and transferred or sold them to foreign shipping companies after 1946, making them a central part of many countries post-war merchant fleets.