Portal:United States Merchant Marine

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The United States Merchant Marine Portal

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The United States Merchant Marine consists of the nation's fleet of non-military merchant ships and their crews. Operated by the government or by private owners, these ships transport goods and passengers both domestically and internationally. In time of war, the merchant marine is an auxiliary to the United States Navy, and can be called upon to deliver troops and supplies for the military.

As of 2006, the United States merchant fleet consisted of 465 ships above 1,000 gross tonnage crewed by some 69,000 merchant mariners. Seven hundred ships owned by American interests but registered in other countries under flags of convenience are not included in this number.

The federal government maintains fleets of merchant ships via organizations such as Military Sealift Command and the National Defense Reserve Fleet. In 2004, the Federal government employed approximately 5% of all American water transportation workers.

Selected article

SS Kroonland, painted in 1903 by Antonio Jacobsen (1850–1921)

SS Kroonland was an ocean liner for International Mercantile Marine from 1902 until 1927. During World War I she served as United States Army transport USAT Kroonland through 1918, and then for the United States Navy as USS Kroonland (ID-1541) until 1919.

At the time of her 1902 launch in Philadelphia, Kroonland was the largest steamship ever built in the United States. Her maiden voyage took her from New York to Antwerp, a route she would sail for the next twelve years. She was recognized as the first ship to send a radio distress call in and was on the receiving end of the "first real broadcast of history." In 1913, Kroonland was one of ten ships to aid the burning SS Volturno in the mid-Atlantic. Despite stormy seas, Kroonland took aboard 89 of the 520 survivors, earning captain and crew accolades including U.S. Congressional Gold Medals.

The beginning of World War I saw Kroonland serving several different routes. In the Mediterranean in 1914, she was detained by the British and her cargo confiscated. In 1915, she became the largest passenger ship at the time to have transited the Panama Canal. She worked a New York – Panama Canal – San Francisco route until a landslide in the canal closed it for a time. Back in the transatlantic service, Kroonland became one of the first U.S. ships to be defensively armed against German submarines. In 1917, she was hit by a torpedo which didn't detonate and only caused slight damage.

Kroonland spent time as a U.S. Army transport, then in 1918, was then transferred to the U.S. Navy. In the national service, she made fourteen trips carrying nearly 38,000 troops to France. Returned to IMM in late 1919, Kroonland was refitted for passenger service and nearly destroyed in a 1920 shipyard fire. From 1920 to 1923 she plied the North Atlantic and then returned to New York – San Francisco service. Kroonland inaugurated IMM's winter New York – Miami service from 1925 to 1926. The following year, Kroonland was laid up in Hoboken, New Jersey, and was sold and scrapped at Genoa in 1927.


Selected picture

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War Shipping Administration photo showing early 1944 Victory ship construction with a May, 1945 war tonnage production chart

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Selected biography

Woody Guthrie 2.jpg
Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Guthrie (July 14, 1912 – October 3, 1967) was an American songwriter and folk musician. Guthrie's musical legacy consists of hundreds of songs, ballads and improvised works covering topics from political themes to traditional songs to children's songs. Guthrie performed continually throughout his life with his guitar frequently displaying the slogan "This Machine Kills Fascists". Guthrie is perhaps best known for his song "This Land Is Your Land" which is regularly sung in American schools. Many of his recorded songs are archived in the Library of Congress.

During World War II, Guthrie served as a mess man and dish washer in the Merchant Marine. He would frequently entertain the crew and troops to buoy the spirits on transatlantic voyages. Guthrie made attempts to write about his experience in the Merchant Marine but was never satisfied with the results. Longhi would later write about these experiences in his book Woody, Cisco and Me. In 1945, Guthrie's association with Communism made him ineligible for further service in the Merchant Marine and he was drafted into the U.S. Army.


Did you know...

Motor Vessel Baffin Strait


The U.S. Fleet

Ships registered in U.S.: As of 2006, 465 ships of 1,000 gross register tons (GRT) or over were registered under the Flag of the United States. This amounts to a total of 10,590,325 GRT, or a capacity of 13,273,133 metric tons of deadweight (DWT). Of these, 414 are owned by American interests and 51 are owned by foreign interests. Australian owners account for 2 of these ships, Canadaian 4, Danish 24, German 2, Greek 1, Malaysian 4, Dutch 4, Norwegian 2, Singaporean 2, Swedish 5, and Taiwanese 1.

Dry Cargo Ships Tanker ships
Bulk ships 67 Chemical tanker ships 20
Barge carrier 7 Specialized tanker ships 1
Cargo ship 91 Petroleum tanker ships 76
Container ships 76
Roll-on/Roll-off ships 27 Passenger ships
Refrigerated cargo ships 3 General passenger ships 19
Vehicle carrier 20 Combined passenger/cargo 58

U.S.-owned ships registered abroad (700): Antigua and Barbuda 7, Australia 3, Bahamas 121, Belize 5, Bermuda 27, Cambodia 8, Canada 2, Cayman Islands 41, Comoros 2, Cyprus 7, Greece 1, Honduras 1, Hong Kong 21, Ireland 2, Isle of Man 3, Italy 15, North Korea 3, South Korea 7, Liberia 93, Luxembourg 3, Malta 3, Marshall Islands 143, Netherlands 13, Netherlands Antilles 1, Norway 13, Panama 94, Peru 1, Philippines 8, Portugal 1, Puerto Rico 3, Qatar 1, Russia 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 21, Sierra Leone 1, Singapore 7, Spain 7, Sweden 1, Trinidad and Tobago 1, United Kingdom 6, Vanuatu 1, Wallis and Futuna 1.

Source: The 2006 CIA World Factbook which, as a US government publication, is in the public domain.

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