Thirt-seven years after the SS United States last sailed the seas under its own power, and four years after Norwegian Cruise Line bought the ship, a key question remains: Can the grand vessel ever make a comeback?
Norwegian Cruise Line, or NCL, which bought the old Newport News-built vessel in 2003, won't reveal its plans for the ship, which likely would need hundreds of millions of dollars to refurbish. But in May, the chairman of the company that owns NCL gave boosters hope, saying "the restoration of the United States" would be the company's next project, after finishing off two planned cruise ships.
Though it only carried about 2,000 passengers normally, it could be transformed into a military transport that could bring 14,000 troops to anywhere in the world in 10 days.
With lots of aluminum in its structure, the 990-ft. United States was only 53,329 tons, about half that of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier of today. But it has eight steam boilers and four turbines that produced 242,000 hp. The vessel was said to have a maximum speed of 42 knots, with 23 knots in reverse, according to the book "Newport News Shipbuilding
: The First Century," by William Tazewell.
On its maiden voyage in 1952, the SS United States broke the Queen Mary's speed record, set 14 years before. The United States crossed the North Atlantic in three days, 10 hours and 40 minutes, an average speed of 35.6 knots. A catamaran ferry, stopping for fuel along the way, broke that record in 1990, though the SS United States still
holds the record for an ocean liner.
(Source: Daily Press)