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USS Gulfport (AK-5) on 19 April 1921
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Class: GULFPORT (AK-5)
Design Cargo, 1902
Displacement (tons): 3,800 normal (est.)
Dimensions (feet): 267.3' oa, 253.9' pp x 37.2' wl x 18.0' mn
Original Armament: 1-4"/50 1-6pdr
Later armaments: none (1920)
Complement 94 (1920)
Speed (kts.): 7.5
Propulsion (HP): 800
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 1 screw
||22 May 17
||24 May 02
||1 Sep 17
||3 Mar 22
||25 Jul 22
In 1901-1903 the German Rickmers Reismuehlen firm built at its own shipyard a class of six 1,600 gross ton coastal steamers for service in the Far East: MADELEINE RICKMERS, ANDREE RICKMERS, MARIA RICKMERS, ELLEN RICKMERS, ELISABETH RICKMERS, and DOROTHEA RICKMERS. In 1903 it disposed of its entire Far Eastern coastal fleet, chartering MADELEINE, ANDREE, and ELISABETH RICKMERS to the North German Lloyd line (NDL) and selling the other three outright to NDL. In 1906 the three chartered ships were in turn sold to NDL who renamed them, ANDREE RICKMERS becoming LOCKSUN. LOCKSUN was at Hong Kong on 5 Aug 14 when war was declared and was allowed to leave the harbor. She loaded a cargo of coal at Manila and was at Majuro when the German gunboat (an old third-class cruiser) GEIER arrived there on 11 Aug 14 and commandeered her. GEIER planned to join up with the rest of the German fleet in the eastern Pacific after stopping at Honolulu on the way, but machinery breakdowns kept her at Majuro until 21 August and she could then only make 8 knots and at times had to be towed by LOCKSUN. The two ships reached Honolulu on 15 Oct 14 and were promptly blockaded there by Japanese warships off the port. U.S. authorities interned the two ships on 7 Nov 14 as warships, LOCKSUN being considered a tender to GEIER.
On 31 Jan 17 Germany notified the United States that it intended to resume unrestricted submarine warfare the next day and the crews of many of the German ships in the U.S. began to sabotage the machinery of their ships to prevent their use when the U.S. entered the war. Smoke was seen rising from the smokestacks of the German ships at Honolulu beginning on 31 January as the German crews dry-fired their boilers and the ships were all seized on 4 Feb 17 after the wooden deck of GEIER caught fire. Both GEIER and LOCKSUN were towed to Pearl Harbor on 5 Feb 17 and repairs were begun there. On 17 Apr 17 Pearl Harbor reported that considerable repairs were necessary to the hull and fittings of the ship, almost entirely because of deterioration from lack of care and preservation. (This report did not cover the propulsion machinery on which considerable work was also needed). Pearl concluded that "this vessel would make a very serviceable cargo boat." BuC&R noted on 20 Apr 17 that LOCKSUN was somewhat smaller than had been found suitable for naval service as an auxiliary Supply or Fuel Ship and had doubts as to whether she should be taken over. On 22 May 17 Presidential Executive Order 2624 authorized the Secretary of the Navy to seize GEIER and LOCKSUN at Honolulu for the use of the Navy . They were among the 14 seized steamers for which SecNav announced new names on 4 Jun 17. These, including SCHURZ for GEIER and GULFPORT for LOCKSUN, were promulgated in Navy General Order 301 of 9 Jun 17. An armament of 4-3"/50 guns was reserved for GULFPORT at Mare Island but was not installed. Considerable time was needed for repairs because of the lack of skilled labor and pier space at Pearl, and GULFPORT was finally commissioned at Honolulu on 1 Sep 17.
GULFPORT, loaded with a full cargo of pineapples, escorted four submarines to the United States. She discharged the pineapples at Key West and reached New York on 28 Jan 18. There she underwent repairs and loaded a cargo of supplies for the Marine detachment in the West Indies. She arrived at Charleston, S.C. on 10 Feb 18 and began the first of her many voyages on the West Indies Freight Service. Typically she would proceed from Charleston to Guantanamo, Santiago, Port au Prince, Cape Haitien, Monti Cristi, Port au Plata, Sanchez, San Pedro de Macoris, Santo Domingo City, St. Thomas, and back to Charleston. She carried oil and other necessary supplies to American troops there and, until this practice ceased in January 1919, returned with commercial cargoes of sugar from the islands. GULFPORT was designated AK-5 when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20.
On 15 Nov 18 the Naval Overseas Transportation Service's Medical Aide performed a sanitary inspection of the ship which at the time was carrying between 100 and 125 passengers, resulting in a determination by the NOTS Material officer that "the GULFPORT is the smallest vessel of our fleet and is entirely unsuited for carrying passengers, and the practice of doing so should be discontinued." He added that "if passengers are to be carried the vessel should be entirely reconstructed. If, on the other hand, she is to be continued for cargo purposes alone, her present arrangements are adequate." CNO replied on 26 Nov 18 that a larger ship was not required on the West Indies itinerary and that it was essential that GULFPORT be able to carry passengers as she together with KITTERY provided practically the only means of interisland transportation. NOTS then came up with recommended alterations that would minimize cost while allowing the ship to carry a maximum of 3 officer and 50 enlisted passengers except for short trips between West Indian ports when more could be carried on deck. CNO objected that from his perspective the ship had been doing comparatively satisfactory service and insisted on arranging the vessel to carry 100 men. In January 1921 she was authorized to carry passengers not in excess of her 12 first class accommodations and 55 bunks or cots for officers and troops.
On 2 Nov 21 the new freighter CAPELLA (AK-13) was designated to replace GULFPORT, which was put on the sale list later that month. On 16 Nov 21 CNO directed that GULFPORT, then at Norfolk, be ordered to the New York Navy Yard where she would turn over to CAPELLA personnel and material that would be required to commission that ship. The Commanding Officer and crew of GULFPORT were to be transferred to CAPELLA. GULFPORT arrived at New York on 25 Nov 21 and CAPELLA commissioned there on 8 Dec 21 while the transfer between the ships was in progress. On 6 Jan 22 CNO informed the Bureaus that CAPELLA was to be employed in transportation of freight between Atlantic Coast ports and Navy Yards and to the West Indies and that she was to be ready on 1 Mar 22. GULFPORT decommissioned on 3 Mar 22 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and was sold to Moore McCormick, Inc., of New York on 25 Jul 22. She remained with a Moore McCormick subsidiary (the Commercial Scout S.S. Co.) for only two years before passing to a Hong Kong firm, the Pei Lun S.S. Co. On a voyage between Hong Kong and Singapore she stranded on Samson Island south of Hong Kong and burned out. She was towed to Hong Kong on 15 Oct 29 and scrapped. One of LOCKSUN's sisters, PONGTONG (ex ELISABETH RICKMERS), was taken over by the U.S. Shipping Board in 1917 under the name QUINNEBAUG, while the other four went to Britain, Italy, and Siam.
||Ex merc. LOCKSUN, ex-ANDREE RICKMERS (ID-2989, completed 30 Jun 02). Converted at Pearl Harbor. Delivered to buyer 23 Aug 22. Merc. COMMERCIAL SCOUT 1922, LOK SUN 1924. Wrecked on 14 Jul 29 near Hong Kong and scrapped there.
Compiled: 26 Aug 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012