The break-bulk cargo ship Cape Blanco was originally built as the SS Mason Lykes at the Avondale Shipyards in Avondale, Louisiana in 1965. The ship was delivered to its owner, Lykes Brothers Steamship Company on September 20, 1966. The Mason Lykes was a traditional break-bulk cargo vessel that transported cotton and other palletized and bulk cargoes from the Gulf of Mexico to the West Indies, Great Britain, and from the northern border of Portugal to the southern border of Denmark.
Mason Lykes was one of a number of ships acquired by the Maritime Administration in 1985 and assigned to its Ready Reserve Force (RRF). The Mason Lykes was renamed Cape Blanco, placed on a five-day activation status, and homeported in Alameda, California.
Five years later, the Cape Blanco was among the 78 RRF ships activated to support Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM. The vessel was ordered to activate on December 9, 1990, and placed under the operational control of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. It continued in service until September 1991.
Cape Blanco was maintained in a reduced operating status (partially crewed) in Alameda, California, after which it was laid-up in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet.
The MARAD's National Register Eligibility Assessment for Cape Blanco, available in the Documents section, also contains a detailed history of the vessel.