All of the Fort ships, except two which were paid for outright, were transferred on bareboat charter on lease-lend terms from the Canadian Government or the U.S. War Shipping Administration who bought ninety of the 'Forts' built in Canada. Under such a scheme, the owner supplies the ship but the charterer (in this case the British Government) is responsible for supplying and equipping the vessel with all fuel, chandlery, hardware, paint and other expendable supplies. When the ship is returned to the owner, a reverse adjustment is made for fuel and supplies which remain on board.
The ninety ships purchased by the U.S. were obtained through the 'Hyde Park Declaration' which was signed by the U.S.A. and Canada on 20 April 1941. All these vessels were delivered between February 1942 and May 1943.
Crew for the vessels were assembled in Britain and sent by passenger liner to collect their new ships. The British MOWT (Ministry of War Transport) appointed a manager who was responsible for recruiting crew and for the day-to-day management but had no say in the selection of cargoes or the routing and destination of a vessel.
The first contracts for 20 vessels were signed in 1941. Burrard Dry Dock contracted for 8 and the remaining orders went to Canadian Vickers and Davie Shipbuilding Ltd. The contract price for each of the Burrard ships was $1,856,500. The first ship to be delivered was the Fort St James, which was laid down on 23 April 1941 and launched on 15 October. The ship was delivered at the end of January 1942, a total of 281 days.
At the end of the war, all the 'Fort' ships which had survived were returned to the owners:
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