S/S United States

Will this great American icon be torn to shreds? She is one of the few classic and historical liners still around, and after escaping the indignation of the scrap yards for the last forty years, her luck might finally be running out. The SS United States is owned by NCL ( Norwegian Cruises owned by Star Cruise Lines). They once had plans to restore her and put her to work on the Hawaii run with NCLA, but of course we all know what happened to NCLA, and the plans for the SS United States died along with it. So now she is berthed in Philadelphia, rusting away while her fate is decided. Rumor has it NCL (Star Cruises) has said they will not sell the ship for scrap, or to a foreign owner, but I wouldn't bet on that.

Why not just sell her to a foreign owner so she can be put to service as a low cost party cruiser like so many other old cruise ships? Well because! This is the SS United States, the greatest ocean liner ever built in America!

She was a technological marvel of her time. Built with heavy subsidization by the government and built to military standards she actually was a duel purpose vessel. You could say she was not a passenger ocean liner at all but a military ship used as an ocean liner when not on active duty. That’s why she was so amazing. She had duel engine rooms in case of attack. No wood onboard, all fiberglasses so she was fireproof. She had extensive aluminum used in the superstructure so she was light and was over powered for speed. She was compartmentalized in such a way that half the ship could fill with water and still float. She was the fastest ship built. She could do twenty knots in reverse and her top speed of 44 knots full ahead was classified for years after her construction, and still holds the record for cruise liners. She was the first to utilize five blade propellers; the fact is she was a surprise weapon on stand by in the cold war era because of her great speed being able to transport thousands of troops in half the time it would take any other country. All of this, plus her name and the fact she was made in the USA makes her a national icon. You can not simply sell a national icon like the SS United States to just anyone, not if you don’t want tomatoes thrown at you.

I have thought about it, and I am the first one to say how much I love classic old liners, but we need to be realistic. They are just that, classic old liners. Look at the Norway, which was the old SS France, and the pride of France at one time just like the SS United States was the pride of America. There will be nothing at all left of her but pictures and memories. She is ripped apart on a scrapping beach in Alang, India. Her great history cut up and sold off.

There is an effort to preserve the SS United States as a hotel, or a museum, and still some talk about making her a viable refurbished cruise ship. Let’s be honest. None of that is financially viable. She has been stripped to the bones. Her four steam engines, although still onboard, would never be used. You would have to rebuild completely preserving only her outline. It would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Even then, she would not meet the quality of the modern cruise ships and would require constant repairs and maintenance. To make her a hotel or museum would also cost millions, millions that would probably never be recouped in revenue afterwards. Not to mention that NCL (Star Cruises) probably also wants to recoup the millions they have spent keeping her tied up all these years. A hotel or museum is not going to make that kind of money. They say it is costing $1000.00 per day to keep her tied up. Who can afford that these days? That is irresponsible money handling.

It is true, that 50 years ago the SS United States was a symbol of the nation that built her. But she is not that SS United States any more. For all intents and purposes she is dead. It would be more cost effective and more realistic to just build another SS United States much the same way Cunard has rebuilt the Queen Elizabeth. She has been tied up and wasting away for forty years! Over twice as long as she was sailing! How long must it be until we realize it is not financially viable to restore her? It has not been so for four decades. I doubt that will change.

But at the same time, she is a grand old lady and can not simply be sent to Alang like the terrible way the Norway was wasted. Horror of horrors no! So what to do? How to stop losing money on her while she rusts away tied to a pier, but at the same time preserve her for all time with the dignity due a statesman?

Sink her.

I can hear it now… WHAT! Sink her!! You’re MAD!

But think about it. Make her into a national park. It’s good for the economy; a national park makes jobs and creates tourism which brings in money. It’s good for the ecology, its good for the recreational divers. It’s good for everyone. You can place a placard, a memorial, anything. We all know artificial reefs are good for the planet. So let’s take the great lady and save her the indignity of Alang. Let her serve a purpose and become a memorial all at the same time.

Granted, she would need some clean up done before then, but it would be allot cheaper and more financially responsible than refurbishing. It would be a gift to the planet, maintain her dignity, and create something people could use for centuries to come. After all she has already had all asbestos removed. Unlike the Norway which had not.

Of course, if you think me insane and feel that she should be saved, and if you think it can still happen, you should visit the following web site and get involved.

Above image is borrowed from this website

They have an online petition, take donations, and also suggest other ways you can help save her. It’s also a good read about the SS United States. I am going to join the petition myself. I think she should be a reef, not saved, but I do NOT want her to go to Alang. That's just rude.
This YouTube video is done by them as well.

1 Response
  1. Anonymous Says:

    HI. Thanks for the blog on SS United States! I Am not sure I want her sunk, but it is true the money to do a rebuild is just not around these days. One correction, her superstructure is aluminum. Not her hull. I know it says that somewhere on the United States website but it's not quite right. Glad your blogging more often now!

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