A standard Victory cargo ship with a VC2-S-AP2 type hull, the SS Bates Victory was constructed between March 9 and May 2, 1945, by the California Shipbuilding Corporation of Los Angeles. She was delivered to the War Shipping Administration later in May and operated by The General Steamshipping Corp. until the 3rd of July 1946, when she changed hands to the American Export Lines under a WSA bareboat charter. In 1948 the ship was transferred to A.L. Burbank & Co by the Maritime Commission (the predecessor of the WSA) and laid down on the Hudson River as part of the Reserve Fleet.
Like with all ships built during the 1940s, asbestos was heavily used in her construction for shielding heat-sensitive areas as well as lining pipes and plumbing. Members of her crew who worked in the boiler and engine rooms, as well as pipefitters, were especially at risk of contamination with asbestos fibers.