SS United States Will Not Return to Service
- SS United States sits out of commission in Philadelphia. (Photo: SS United States Conservancy)
- Susan Gibbs (left) and Edie Rodriguez at the February press conference announcing plans to save the SS United States (Photo: Eric Haun)
- SS United States in the 1950s (Photo: SS United States Conservancy)
- A rendering shows a restored SS United States by Crystal Cruises (Image: Crystal Cruises)
A comprehensive technical feasibility study has determined the SS Unites States to be structurally sound, but a number of insurmountable obstacles will keep America’s Flagship from returning to seagoing service.
In February, Crystal Cruises reached a deal with the SS United States Conservancy to restore what was once the world’s fastest, safest and largest passenger liner to a fully operational modern luxury cruise ship, pending the results of a technical feasibility study.
Now, some six months later, the cruise line said its intensive $1 million evaluation of the SS United States has uncovered insuperable technical and commercial challenges preventing the record-breaking and storied Big U’s return to liner service.
The study saw a team of maritime experts and engineers perform in-depth assessments of the ship’s structural condition, underwater inspections of the hull by divers, examination of fuel and saltwater ballasting tanks and a series of intensive engineering studies to deduce what would be needed to return the 1950s-era vessel to service.
It was concluded that the ship is intact and structurally sound. However, modifying the ship for today’s SOLAS requirements would necessitate significant changes to the hull that would pose stability challenges, and the installation of a diesel electric propulsion plant would require altering of the existing shaft lines and rebuilding about 25 percent of the hull to reconfigure the ship to a twin shaft-twin rudder arrangement.
“While it was known that the vessel would need to have been essentially rebuilt from the inside out, these specific challenges, among others, collectively posed significant risk to the success of the project,” Crystal said in a statement.
Crystal President and CEO Edie Rodriguez said, “Unfortunately, the hurdles that would face us when trying to bring a 65-year-old vessel up to modern safety, design and international regulatory compliance have proven just too great to clear in both a technically and commercially responsible manner.”
Crystal Cruises will donate $350,000 to aid in the SS United States Conservancy’s as it pursues stationary redevelopment opportunities that would potentially save the ship.
“While it has been determined that Crystal’s exciting vision for the ship would have required overcoming various technical hurdles and major changes to her historic design, the studies performed have confirmed the ship is structurally sound,” said Susan Gibbs, Executive Director of the SS United States Conservancy. “America’s Flagship continues to hold enormous potential as a stationary mixed-use development and museum in New York or another urban waterfront setting.”
Launched in 1952, the SS United States captured the transatlantic speed record on her maiden voyage. Still the largest passenger ship ever designed and built in America, the Big U was designed as part of a secret Pentagon program during the Cold War, which stipulated it could be quickly converted from a luxury liner into a naval troopship in the event of a war, carrying 15,000 troops with a 240,000 shaft horsepower propulsion plant capable of traveling 10,000 nautical miles – almost half way around the globe – without refueling.
Before her retirement in 1969, the SS United States was regarded as not only a technological marvel, but also as the world’s most glamorous and elegant ship, having transported more than one million passengers, including four U.S. presidents, international royalty and many of Hollywood’s “golden era” celebrities.