PRESIDENT LINCOLN And PRESIDENT TYLER, American President Lines Twins Trade Places




Shawn J. Dake

A funny thing happened on the way to the scrap yard. A pair of identical twins switched places, then met for a final time before parting to fulfill the others destiny. The ships were the only two Sea Racer class vessels, both completed for American President Lines in 1961. The LINCOLN, formerly the PRESIDENT LINCOLN, and the PRESIDENT, previously the PRESIDENT TYLER had spent the last 32 years languishing at anchor in Row J of the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet until being removed in 2011. The PRESIDENT was the first to go, making the short tow to Mare Island at Vallejo, California on March 8th. Plans called for the LINCOLN to be scrapped at All Star Metals in Brownsville, Texas.

The LINCOLN in the BAE-Systems Dry Dock at San Francisco on April 5, 2011. Photo by Dave Rauenbuehler,

In preparation for the 5,000 mile tow the ship was taken on April 4th to the BAE-Systems Shipyard at San Francisco, very near to where it was originally built. During the dry dock period, the hull was cleaned of toxins, primarily PCBs, found in the badly chipping paint. During this process, holes were discovered and patched, but the LINCOLN was rendered unfit for a long ocean tow. Back in the water on April 11th the hull continued to leak. Since scrapping of the PRESIDENT at Allied Defense Recycling had not yet begun, the Maritime Administration negotiated a deal to swap the identical sisters.

The PRESIDENT LINCOLN and PRESIDENT TYLER were prominently featured in American President Lines cargo-liner publicity material. Brochure from the collection of Shawn J. Dake.

The story of the PRESIDENT TYLER was presented in these pages under the title “End Of The PRESIDENT” posted March 25th.  The PRESIDENT LINCOLN shares a similar story to its sister, with the two ships remaining together until the very end. PRESIDENT LINCOLN was built by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation Shipyard at San Francisco. It was the first of the class dubbed C4-S-1Q, very similar to the C-4 Mariners, but popularly known as “Sea Racers” for their fast 20.5 knot speed. Launched on February 28, 1960, the 13,265 gross ton cargo-liner was ready to enter service on May 23, 1961. The ship was designed by naval architect George G. Sharp who had worked on numerous other marine-related projects including the design of the three passenger-cargo liners intended for American President Lines in the early 1950’s and their PRESIDENT HOOVER originally built in 1939 as the PANAMA, which joined the company in 1957. The PRESIDENT LINCOLN did in fact carry passengers in addition to its primary function as a freighter.

Deck Plans of the Sea Racer class PRESIDENT LINCOLN and PRESIDENT TYLER, compared to the similar Master Mariner class ships. Brochure from the collection of Shawn J. Dake.

There were a total of eight cabins accommodating a maximum of 12 passengers. The accommodations were of a very high standard and included two lounges, the dining room and a card room. In addition 60 crew members made their home on board.

An extremely rare photograph of the passenger stairway on the LINCOLN which connected the two decks of staterooms and lounges. Photo by Jonathan Haeber
Even after years of neglect the artwork and furnishings remained intact. This image is most likely a corner niche on the forward, portside of the dining room. Photo by Jonathan Haeber
Still looking fit to greet passengers, one of the staterooms configured as a sitting area with convertible sofa bed. Photo by Jonathan Haeber

Perhaps these ships will remain best known for being among the first to be specially designed to carry containers, although the company hedged their bets by giving over only Hold No. 4 for that purpose, located just forward of the superstructure. There was a single gantry crane with a retractable boom, mounted on rails to work the containers. The remainder of the ship had hatch openings for traditional break-bulk cargo handling. The design of the multi-legged masts supported 24 cargo booms with 10 ton capacity along with one additional 30-ton capacity boom. Ultimately, the two methods of cargo handling worked at cross-purposes with each other, and while container capacity onboard was eventually increased, the pair of ships never quite lived up to their owner’s expectations. They were sleek, beautiful and flawed. Full containerships became the industry standard in a relatively short period of time.

The LINCOLN, ex. PRESIDENT LINCOLN at Suisun Bay, California. Photo courtesy of MARAD.

The PRESIDENT LINCOLN remained in service for 18 years. On April 30, 1979, the ship was traded to the Maritime Administration (MARAD) and renamed LINCOLN. It was placed in the Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay designated as inactive status. The ship would remain there in mothballs for the next 32 years. The National Register Eligibility Assessment prepared by MARAD, dated April 15, 2009 determined the fate of the LINCOLN with two words “Not Eligible.” The portion of the vessel’s assessment titled “Historical Integrity” sums up the reasons for the decision to scrap the LINCOLN. “The vessel was originally constructed in 1961 and was modified in 1968 to increase its container capacity. The modifications increased the amount of cellular hold space and extended the trackage for the gantries. The vessel was further modified in 1971, which increased its capacity to 410 TEU. All (or most) salient design features of structure, machinery and equipment are substantially intact. The vessel’s physical integrity is very degraded, and the ship’s overall condition is poor. Lincoln represents an obsolete type which has little utility in modern shipping markets.”

LINCOLN entering the Allied Defense Recycling Dry Dock on May 6, 2011. Photo by Frank Cleope, Jr. c.2011.

The swap of the LINCOLN and the PRESIDENT between scrap yards was an unprecedented event. In a written statement Maritime Administrator David Matsuda praised both of the ship dismantling companies, saying “The Maritime Administration thanks the recycling companies and all parties involved for their flexibility and willingness to assist in meeting federal goals for an effective, environmentally responsible ship recycling program.” The LINCOLN is the 19th ship to leave the Reserve Fleet with 38 more remaining to be disposed of under the sweeping plans of the Obama Administration to rid the Bay of obsolete vessels. The fact that the PRESIDENT was still intact at Mare Island was because Allied Defense Recycling, also known as California Dry Dock Solutions, was still busy dispatching the remains of the former Lykes Lines freighter SOLON TURMAN, the first ship to be scrapped in California in many years. The PRESIDENT vacated Dry Dock 2 and was replaced by the LINCOLN, and for a brief time in early May, the ships remained side by side one last time.

The American President Lines sisters, LINCOLN and PRESIDENT meet for the last time on May 6, 2011 at Mare Island, Ca. In the foreground are all that remains of the Lykes Line freighter SOLON TURMAN. Photo by Frank Cleope, Jr. c.2011.

It may seem like an easy and natural solution to switch the identical twins from yard to yard, but in fact there were logistics to be worked out. In the “Contract Modification” dated May 2, 2011 between the United States Of America and All Star Metals, LLC., the Government made some substantial financial concessions. The Brownsville scrappers had paid $675,276.00 when they won the bid for the LINCOLN on March 16, 2011. While it was agreed that “both vessels are sister ships of the same design class” and “shall be substituted on an equal basis” there were exceptions negotiated in the contact. The largest credit of $134,000.00 was for the disposal of 2,574 light tons of oily water. An additional 258 light tons of oil was credited at $34,000.00.

The overhead gantry crane is clearly shown in this view of the LINCOLN taken on July 5, 2011. Photo by Frank Cleope, Jr., c.2011.
A similar view of the PRESIDENT with missing gantry but masts still intact, photographed on March 11, 2011. Photo by Frank Cleope, Jr. c.2011.

Adjustment for the large overhead crane, which was aboard the LINCOLN but missing from the PRESIDENT was valued at $23,000.00 but interestingly enough, the extra 20 tons of anchors aboard the PRESIDENT was considered an even “exchange for any missing ferrous metals except the overhead crane.” Along with funds for “Unforeseen Contingencies” the total adjusted value to All Star Metals came to $227,720.00. The Buyer was also allowed to claim numerous costs due to the delayed delivery of a ship. For all parties involved it appeared to be a equitable solution. The U.S. Government was able to dispose of the LINCOLN, in a less than seaworthy condition, Allied Defense Recycling obtained an equivalent ship with a bit of extra metal aboard, and All Star Metals received a substantial refund from their initial investment, and the PRESIDENT.

The LINCOLN at Mare Island on May 6, 2011. Photo by Frank Cleope, Jr. c.2011.

The PRESIDENT LINCOLN was built with an overall length of 563.75 feet with a 76 foot beam and a 32.5 foot draft. The main engines were Bethlehem Steel steam turbines, rated at 17,500 shaft horsepower driving a single screw. Steam was provided by Babcock & Wilcox boilers. Times change and the era of the Sea Racers and their fleet mates has long passed. Ships are no longer built on the San Francisco Bay. American President Lines is still around but is not owned by Americans. Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) is the parent company of the Singapore-based corporation, which has relocated the U.S. headquarters of the company from Oakland, California to Phoenix, Arizona; not known to be a big seafaring city. Under their management American President Lines remains as the fifth-largest container shipping line in the world.

A parting shot of the former PRESIDENT LINCOLN as the scrapping process begins, taken on July 5, 2011. Photo by Frank Cleope, Jr. c.2011.

As of July, work had just begun on cutting up the LINCOLN. The masts and cargo booms have been removed, but otherwise the structure of the ship is still intact. After a 45-day tow, that was not without problems, the PRESIDENT reached its final destination in Texas where work will soon begin on her demolition. In a short time, these ships will be little more than memories for their crew and passengers, and those who follow ships and the sea. Remembrances of an era 50 years in the past when times were changing, but ships were still designed to be beautiful as well as functional.

My thanks to Frank Cleope, Jr.,  Martin Cox,  Jonathan Haeber (, and Dave Rauenbuehler for their fantastic work and photographs.

See Related stories by Shawn J. Dake


Vintage Ship To Be Scrapped In California

Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years.  A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary.  A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs.  Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America.  With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
Shawn Dake

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