SS United States Faces Scrapping

Friday, March 05, 2010
Photo courtesy Pride International

According to the SS United States Conservancy awareness campaign, the America’s national flagship, the SS United States, is in imminent danger of being bought by scrappers. This great vessel, which still holds the trans-Atlantic speed record, may soon be destroyed. Bids for purchase of the ship by scrappers are being collected by NCL this month. The current owners of the vessel, Genting Hong Kong (formerly Star Cruises Limited), through its subsidiary, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), listed the vessel for sale in February 2009 but have not announced a purchaser to date. There has been acute interest in the ship by scrapping companies. While NCL graciously offered the Conservancy first right of refusal on a sale of the vessel in 2009, the Conservancy has not been in a financial position to purchase the ship outright. The organization has been working diligently to lay the groundwork for a public-private partnership that can save the ship and sustain her for generations to come.

The Conservancy understands that Genting and NCL are reluctant to continue covering the significant costs associated with maintaining the vessel in its current berth in Philadelphia and appreciates the good care the vessel has received since being purchased by NCL in 2003 with the stated intentions of returning the ship to seagoing service. The Conservancy has maintained a positive working relationship with NCL over the past seven years and looks forward to an ongoing collaboration during this critical period.

The Conservancy has begun discussions with NCL with the intent of covering some of the fees associated with maintaining the ship in Philadelphia as it finalizes plans for repurposing the ship as a stationary attraction on a large metropolitan waterfront. The Conservancy’s new national campaign is titled “Save Our Ship” (SOS) and offers a “Plank Owner” certificate for tax-deductible donations of at least $25 via its new donor website: www.ssusplankowner.org

The SS United States was a powerful Cold War weapon disguised as a luxury ocean liner. She sailed from New York to Europe and other destinations from 1952-1969, transporting four American presidents, countless foreign heads of state, A-list celebrities, military and business leaders, artists, and diplomats, not to mention ordinary citizens and many immigrants to America during her mishap-free 400 voyages.

Conservancy Board Member Mark Perry produced an award-winning American Public Television documentary on the SS United States in 2008. This film, SS United States: Lady in Waiting, will be screened at the National Academy Museum (1083 Fifth Avenue, at 89th Street in Manhattan) on Thursday, March 11th, 7 p.m., followed by a reception and call to action. Registration is via the Conservancy website. At the event, Walter Cronkite IV will join the Conservancy’s Advisory Council, on which his grandfather served as Honorary Chairman. Mr. Cronkite’s participation and support is emblematic of the Conservancy’s commitment to engaging a new generation of Americans about the importance of our national flagship.

All supporters are asked to visit the Conservancy’s site and register to receive updates about the Conservancy’s efforts to save the SS United States and to make a tax deductible contribution to the SOS Campaign. “This is both a patriotic and a practical effort,” said Conservancy Executive Director Dan McSweeney, whose father emigrated from Scotland to America to serve as a crewmember aboard the vessel. “We’re absolutely committed to saving one of the most important symbols of America in the 20th century, but we’re also talking about creating hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs when this ship is refurbished and becomes a stationary attraction in a large U.S. city. We must save this irreplaceable American icon and continue the process of establishing a public-private partnership to re-purpose her.”

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