BALTIMORE — One of the last operating Liberty Ships from World War II will have a new home in 2020.
On Monday, the owner and operator of the S.S. John W. Brown announced an $18 million plan to revitalize a portion of the former Bethlehem Steel Fairfield Shipyard to provide a home base for the ship’s education and cruise activities.
Since returning to Baltimore in 1988, the ship has been based in Canton. It was first launched at the Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyard on Labor Day in 1942, and has sailed more than 25,000 miles since its restoration.
The proposal between Project Liberty Ship Inc., and Maritime Applied Physics Corporation (MAPS) would utilize federal and state funding, augmented by corporate and individual donations, to rebuild a fitting-out pier at the former yard in South Baltimore, which would be owned and run by a non-profit entity.
Included in the project's construction costs is the complete demolition of the remaining parts of the 80-year- old existent pier, construction of a new heavy ship pier, and repair of the bulkhead at the foot of the pier.
The plan is expected to take about two years to develop. In the meantime, the ship will be docked on an interim basis until the Fairfield pier is ready.
Having completed 13 wartime voyages carrying troops and cargo, the S.S. John W. Brown is the only remaining troop transport which landed combat forces on an invasion beach.
Named after a shipbuilding labor leader, the vessel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and is operated by a 175-member all volunteer crew.
Under the joint proposal, dual use of the rebuilt pier would meet Maritime Industrial Zoning Overlay District (MIZOD) requirements for deep water access at the working waterfront by combining the JOHN W. BROWN’s education and training missions with MAPC’s advanced maritime work. MAPC would turn over ownership to the new non-profit and in return receive a long-term lease for a portion of the pier.