Preservationists taking title of famed cruise ship

1st February 2011, 02:37
The Associated Press is reporting the following about the SS United States and the SS United States Conservancy:

Preservationists taking title of famed cruise ship

Associated Press - January 31, 2011 5:15 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A nonprofit preservation group is about to take ownership of a historic ocean liner that carried presidents, celebrities and immigrants across the Atlantic in the 1950s and 1960s.

The SS United States Conservancy said Monday it's acquiring the title of the legendary ship, which has been berthed in Philadelphia since 1996.

The liner got a reprieve from scrapping when philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest in July promised $5.8 million so preservationists could buy it from Norwegian Cruise Line and its parent company and maintain it for 20 months.

Since then, the conservancy has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency on a plan for removing hazardous chemicals from the ship. They said the EPA is satisfied with their plan, so the sale can go through.

The SS United States Conservancy is releasing more details when the deal becomes official Tuesday.

To follow progress of developments:

fred henderson
1st February 2011, 20:27
As I understand it, the United States is an empty shell; all of its internal decor and furnishings have long since been removed. There is very, very little prospect of the ship ever becoming seaworthy again. If this scheme goes through, what will the public be offered? A nautical Disneyland?

By the way, in her very brief and financially hopeless operational life, she only undertook two cruises. Both were loss making; although slightly less so than her transatlantic voyages.

1st February 2011, 21:29
Hi Fred,

The United States undertook many cruises during her career - all of them taking place in the 1960's. She visited Rio twice, Dakar several times, Cape Town, Gibraltar, Canary Islands, Lisbon and hit ports throughout the Caribbean many times.

I wouldn't exactly say the United States had a "financially hopeless operational life" as she was fairly successful in the 1950's and one of the most popular liners during that time. She did hit hard financial times in the 1960's but most liners did - especially American liners which were more costly to operate.



fred henderson
5th February 2011, 14:28
Hello Carl

It is my understanding that United States cost $78 million to build, of which United States Lines paid $32 million; the balance of $46 million being paid by the US taxpayer. During her 17 year life she consumed over $100 million in taxpayer subsidies. Despite these massive subsidies US Lines were also losing $8 million a year by the time she was withdrawn from service. These figures seem to justify my definition of a "financially hopeless operational life".

You are absolutely correct in stating United States undertook more than two cruises (I think I was confusing her with the Queens in this respect) but cruising was a very minor part of her operational life, as cruises were forbidden under the subsidy agreement until 1962. She apparently carried a grand total of 1,002,936 transatlantic passengers and 22,755 on cruises.

I believe that The SS United States Conservancy was trying to raise $3 million to buy the ship by 1 February 2011. If that happened, they then have 20 months of financial support to develop a plan to clean the ship of toxins and make the ship financially self-supporting, possibly as a hotel, casino or other development. Has the purchase been made?

Jeff Taylor
5th February 2011, 15:18
Supposedly the deal has closed, and already the initial restoration plan is in trouble. The Conservancy had supposedly hoped to make a deal with a proposed Foxwoods casino project in Philadelphia, but apparently Foxwoods hasn't exactly jumped at that concept. Still, there is said to be other interest in Philadelphia, New York, and Miami. For the life of me, though, I can't help but wonder where the money will come from to create new interiors given the enormity of the task, and lacking any of the historical fittings to lend authenticity or nostalgia to the project it's hard to see how even the albeit tepid drawing power of the Queen Mary could be duplicated. She deserves preservation, but the auctioning of her fittings and the destruction wreaked upon her in Turkey in the early 1990's during abatement makes that an uphill fight except for the iconic exterior. If nobody has made any significant money off QM (or when it was around QE) or the entirely complete and seaworthy QE2 you have to wonder.

S. Toth
9th February 2011, 01:56
I believe itl play itself out, however as the conservancy states "we are not out of the woods yet"