SS United States Conservancy Fears Ship's Demolition


The S.S. United States' bridge, radar mast, and funnel illuminated by lighting artist Robert Wogan for the film.

Credit: Photo by Big Ship Films

The S.S. United States, the grand and stylish ocean liner that epitomized American power in the aftermath of World War II, now languishes dockside on the Delaware River, just south of downtown Philadelphia. The paint is peeling from the ship's massive red, white, and blue funnels, and she's no longer seaworthy. But it's still possible to catch a glimpse of her from Interstate 95, or from the Ikea parking lot across the way, and imagine how awe-inspiring she must have seemed to her first passengers during her maiden voyage in 1952, when she set a still-standing transatlantic speed record from England to New York.

Now she may vanish forever. According to the S.S. United States Conservancy, a nonprofit group, the ship's owner, Norwegian Cruise Line, a unit of Genting Hong Kong, is currently collecting bids from ship scrappers.

"We are in a race against time," says Susan Gibbs, the president of the conservancy and granddaughter of William Francis Gibbs, the ship's designer. The conservancy has embarked on a last-minute fundraising campaign in hopes of purchasing the liner or finding a buyer interested in preserving her. "She was an unparalleled engineering and design accomplishment and epitomizes post-war American pride and technological accomplishment," Gibbs says. "It would be such a tragedy to scrap her."

Norwegian Cruise Line bought the SS United States in 2003, intending to put her back into service. When that plan never materialized, the company offered her up for sale in early 2009. It costs about $700,000 per year to maintain and berth the ship, the company said in a statement earlier this month. "The vessel continues to be listed with a ship broker who is focusing on a sale to a U.S. entity," according to the Mar. 3 statement.

According to Gibbs, estimated figures for the ship's sale price have fallen dramatically, based on informal conversations between the conservancy and Norwegian Cruise Line. In part, Gibbs says, that's because scrap prices have nosedived. But she also hopes that the company is willing to entertain lower offers in hopes of finding a preservation-minded buyer: "I would like to think that Norwegian Cruise Line and its parent corporation would prefer to do the right thing, would not want to be associated with the scrapping of a national icon."

The conservancy has long worked on plans to adapt the liner as a multi-use attraction, with hotel, retail, and convention space, as well a maritime museum that would highlight the ship's historical importance. "We have been limited in our ability to get those plans going because we haven't held title to the ship," Gibbs says. "Our hope is that at the 11th hour we can raise enough money to stay the execution and keep moving toward this repurposed vision for the ship." 

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Submitted by idk at: March 4, 2011
this is fake all of it

Submitted by Idjit at: June 28, 2010
Scrapping is idiotic, especially with scrap prices so pitiful right now. If nothing else make it into a floating no-kill animal shelter.

Submitted by snaperoni at: May 25, 2010
My heart is broken. As a small boy in S.I. New York, I watched weekly as the "Queens" and the United States would enter and leave N.Y. Harbor. One Queen is left. Lets not lose the "United States"

Submitted by MAM at: May 3, 2010
This ship does not have to be scrapped. It could be a museum, or hotel, like the Queen Mary in California. It could generate money for its use.

Submitted by arcataberry at: April 23, 2010
My family and I sailed on the United States in the late Spring-Summer of 1956 when President Truman and his wife, Margaret, were aboard. The President and my brother, Sean, really took to each other (he was 9 years old then) and had many wonderful conversations. I have a photograph of the two of them talking and enjoying each other. We all spent the 4th of July on board and I remember a massive display of fireworks high above the ocean, and I believe President Truman later read the Preamble to the Constitution to the passengers. If the Conservancy would like a copy of the photograph, please contact me at

Submitted by faithintheusa at: April 19, 2010
Dr President Obama, Please help!! This ship needs to be saved!! This is the SS United States we are talking about. Please please please help!!!

Submitted by herky at: April 18, 2010
sure could use her right now with all those airplanes grounded because of a volcano! we are too short sighted. she needs to be used and kept usable!

Submitted by ben at: April 7, 2010
It's not gonna happen. Get those blow torches ready!

Submitted by savethessunitedstates at: April 4, 2010
Once Upon A Time, in a not so far away place, a dream was launched by one man, that dream took most of his lifetime to become reality, that man was William Francis Gibbs, that dream was the S.S. United States. The S.S. United States was unlike any ship before her, she was the symbol of a great nation that was also not only able to dream impossible dreams, but was unlike any other nation able to make theses dreams become reality. The S.S. United States took a mere three years to become the pride of the American Merchant marine Fleet, she was designed with all that was the best of America, built by the best Americans of their time. She was the fastest ship of her type at sea. The SS United States contained the best art, top furnishings of the period, she was completely fireproof, and one of the safest ships afloat. She was designed for time of war, but her emphasis of might and strength allowed her to sail as a symbol of peace. She sailed flawlessly for 17 years with never a delay or mechanical issue, just as fast as she sailed that first Transatlantic crossing, collecting the Blue Riband, she quietly and without fanfare was gone, as if she was a dream, but she was not gone and is awaiting her return to become once again The Pride of The American Merchant Marine Fleet. Only we as Americans can save this great piece of our maritime history for future generations, if we can save countless other great symbols of our past, we must do all that is in our power to make sure this irreplaceable piece of our past is not lost forever! Contact anyone and everyone that you know, from that small town one page newspaper to the Commander In Chief! "Nothing is too small or too great to be accomplished through Unity." .

Submitted by Eddie at: April 2, 2010
Oh wow. I came to the United States with my parents on this liner. My father escaping from the then Yugoslavia and living in France and wanting to try a life in America. I was only 5 . When i was 10 we went to visit family in Europe . We went on the French liner " France". That i remember and still have the blue ribbon given me at the dinner table. The France was sold to Norway and then scrapped . Sad. It would also be sad to see the SS United States sent to the breakers. I think eventually she will because this is another generation not at all familiar with the great liners. A generation, sadly, having to be exposed to great monstrosities such as that new vessel.." " of the Seas". In my humble opinion i think the French Normandie to be the most elegant of all liners ever. She is gone. Still. The SS United States has a place in my family history. Shame that she is left the way she is and sadder is the strong possibility she will face the breakers.

Submitted by Bob, Dallas, TX at: April 2, 2010
The S.S. United States should be saved. Our generation has a duty and responsibility to preserve this ship for previous and future generations. The S.S. United States represents everything this country was and is. She is the ship of state. How can this country turn its back on the last vestige of ocean transport between Europe and America? In addition to her speed record and advanced design, the S.S. United States is tangible evidence of every person that ever immigrated, traveled, worked, and played on the North Atlantic. The S.S. United States should be declared a national monument and prominently displayed for future generations. She should be treated no differently than the Washington Monument, the Battleship Wisconsin, and Mount Rushmore. How can you put a price on these American treasures? China should deed the ship back to the U.S. as a cultural exchange – both countries could stand a little gratitude and goodwill. The exterior of the ship can be cosmetically restored back to its original 1952 grandeur for a fraction of the cost to refit her. The S.S. United States should then be permanently berthed at one of the remaining piers along the Hudson in New York. How majestic this ship would be as part of Manhattan’s waterfront – a fixture no less prominent than the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. If we can save the carrier Intrepid, and countless other warships, we can save the United States. The United States is a cultural asset and we should treat it as such. For the amount of money that it takes to run the defense department for one day, we could create a thing of beauty that celebrates the lives of every person that ever dared to discover the new world or freely travel to the old world. Reduce the S.S. United States to scrap and write it off to progress – how irresponsible. Do the right thing and contact your elected representatives to save the “Big U”!

Submitted by Len at: March 31, 2010
I was a passenger on the Constitution in the 60s. I loved that sister ship.

Submitted by sandyl at: March 31, 2010
save the ship!

Submitted by Justin at: March 30, 2010
I think we all should pull toghether on this and everyone should be writing to congress, Senate, hell even the president. if our taxes are going to be raised why not do us a favor and help save this ship! i would like to take a trip to Washington and present them with a proposal.

Submitted by woody at: March 27, 2010
Unfortunately we are up against valuable scrap....we don't know how much that is, but we had better find out.

Submitted by The SS United States Group at: March 24, 2010
We have the online collection of photos to be found anywhere for the SS United States and a friendly and knowledgeable group. We welcome all to come and join. The SS United States Group

Submitted by mimjo at: March 24, 2010
This elegant ship inspires dreams of elegant dining and dancing with me as Ginger Rogers and my husband as Fred Astaire. I eat at Ikea just to look at it from my table, and wonder how such a magnificent creation can be left to crumble. It has a website with photos of the inside.

Submitted by James Roderique Springfield, MO at: March 24, 2010
I think it is wonderful that people are trying to save her. It's going to be hard, but I believe it can be done! Good luck, and I will also be helping soon!

Submitted by Pete at: March 24, 2010
Perhaps NCL would consider selling the ship to the Conservancy for $1, thereby pocketing the 700K/year they now pay for storage. The Conservancy would then have the funds to put toward stabilizing the vessel for eventual repurposing.

Submitted by f128 at: March 24, 2010
I, too, sailed aboard her as a teenager in 1955 from New York to Le Havre, France. We also ran through a hurricane and arrived in about four days. My dad won the daily ship's pool for guessing the number of nautical miles the ship had traveled in the the previous 24 hours... 733 miles! That works out to about 30 knots... not bad for 1955. I would hate to see her go and my only memento being a small model purchased from the ship's store. SOS!

Submitted by P. Dean at: March 24, 2010
As an "army brat", our family sailed on the USS United States from NYC to Bremerhaven, W. Germany in Dec 1959 & then back to the US in Dec 1962, docking in NYC on Christmas Eve (or maybe 23rd) 1962. I celebrated my 7th birthday (17 Dec) on the ship with a surprise "Baked Alaska" birthday cake which was presented to me while everyone in the dining room sang "Happy Birthday"--easily my MOST memorable AND elegant birthday! On Christmas Eve morning, my mother shook us sleepyheads up so we could see the Statue of Liberty through our stateroom's porthole as we sailed into the harbor. I've still got the menus, passenger lists, snapshots of my siblings & me with Santa & other items I need to scan & upload to the ship's site. This landmark of American technology, pride & prowess must be saved!!

Submitted by Tanya at: March 24, 2010
To consider scrapping something this unique betrays a poverty of imagination. When I started on this article I was thinking, "this ship NEEDS to be redeveloped with hotel and retail." I'm glad the conservancy is thinking in the same vein. Seriously. How much more would it be to sink money into reusing this singular piece of property than to build another generic retail/commercial complex brand new? How much more will we treasure it fifty years from now? I say honor the original investment and create someplace special at the same time.

Submitted by annedis at: March 24, 2010
I sailed aboard the SS United States in Sept. 1962 from Le Havre, France, to New York. Though the Master made every effort to avoid a hurricane coming up the east coast, we plowed into it because the storm turned around and there was no way to avoid it. Ropes on the stairs and in the dining room people looking green (in Black and White photos), waves over the top of the bow, and still the ship arrived in New York ahead of time. Very few psgrs were able to leave their cabins. What an experience! I would like to see her SAVED.

Submitted by Threedeck at: March 24, 2010
The amount of money it will take to purchase and restore this magnificent ship is mere pennies to the amount of money that is wasted by government on a daily basis. The Big U is part of our history, as important to the maritime community or anyone who understands the importance of history. Everyone needs to step forward and help the SSUS Conservancy today! Buy a plank, send a check or do whatever you can! And if there are any politicians reading this: Think Stimulus money. Put Americans to work restoring and operating this ship. Let it serve as another waterfront economic engine for Philadelphia, New York City, Baltimore, or Boston.

Submitted by John boy at: March 24, 2010
To allow the United States to go to the scrapyard would exceed the loss of Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. This ship is the floating representation of America, and is timeless in its appeal. There are so many opportunities to have her still serve as a beacon to our people. A penny campaign from all school children in America should be adopted, like the one used years ago to save the USS Constitution. Shame on us if we let this gallant liner fade into history.

Submitted by garciaco49 at: March 24, 2010
This ship is a part of US history and glory. No way it can go down soo sadly. Preserve a momento of hope and pride for our country. Lets save the USA.

Submitted by colodude at: March 23, 2010
In 1961, on a tour with 300 other junior high kids (from Boulder) we visited New York and took the Circle Line tour. It was raining and unpleasant. However, when we reached midtown on the Hudson, we saw the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mary, and the United States all docked together. Even at the age of 13 I knew I was seeing something that I would remember all my life.

Submitted by riverrat at: March 23, 2010
Boats are lost in three's historically. I hope the SS United States is not the third. following the Betty Thacker, and the Lt ?? in a St Louis fire. on Sunday.

Submitted by Moon at: March 23, 2010
Thanks for the article, we need all the publicity about this as possible. But please, remove the statement that "she's no longer seaworthy," which to many would imply she was in danger of sinking. While it is true that she is not able to move under her own power, examinations have shown her hull to be perfectly sound, and if it were to prove feasible, she could be put back into ocean-going service. In fact that is the reason NCL bought her in the first place.

Submitted by The SS United States Group at: March 23, 2010
We have a great affection for old warships in this country and have many preserved around the country - preserving the SS United States and repurposing her, would preserve an important part of our merchant marine history, provide jobs and remind us when we had a strong merchant fleet operating throughout the world. For more information about the SS United States and to view the world's largest online image collection, come join us on The SS United States Group: The SS United States Group

Submitted by Justin at: March 22, 2010
i would like everyone reading this post to entertain this thought. Ocean liners of the 20th century are on the brink of extinction. aside from the collossal cruise liners today, Trans atlantic liners were the epitome of travel since man was able to cross from europe to America. think of how many the world has lost due to senless tradgety's Titanic, Lusitania, Britannic, SS America. these great wonders of the world have been taken from the world. now lying in watery graves. do not let this happen to the pride of the greatest country in the world that has and still holds the record for the fastest trans atlantic crossing. we need action and we need it now do not let this great ship see its demise in a scrap yard.

Submitted by cs at: March 22, 2010
It's a pile of rusting rotting steel, not a living thing. Stop treating it like one and let it go. There are far more worthy things to expend your energy on these days.

Submitted by Tommy Johnston at: March 20, 2010
I have Yet Another Thought to Share with you in the best interest of Our Beloved Ship. I Strongly suggest That she be towed to the NewPort News Ship Yards where she came from and Implore and impress upon them the GREAT-NEED, Imperative URGENCY and out of Deep Sense of Respect, Honor, Decency and National Pride to Help us restore that Giant Behemoth, Mighty Ship of State Back into "Sea-Worthy" Condition with Modern State of the Art Engines, Navigation and Steering and then Repaint her in her Grand RED,WHITE & BLUE" color Scheme and then put her "BACK-IN-PASSENGER-SERVICE" A-S-A-P Then Re-Create The S.S.United States Line's as part of the Colonial Navy. Let's Do Whatever it takes to S-T-O-P her from Falling into the W-R-O-N-G hands wo would destroy her just as they are bent on the destroying the Mightiest Nation in the Free World. We must Band T-O-G-E-T-H-E-R and stop them C-O-L-D.S.O.S " SAVE-OUR-SHIP MAYDAY

Submitted by TOMMY JOHNSTON at: March 20, 2010
I am absolutely heart broken to read that they are going to scrap my beautiful ship that brought me home, "That is "T-R-E-A-S-O-N" by a foreign company and should be dealt with. It would be a Monumental Disgrace and an Abomination to scrap the S.S. United States, The Decent and Honorable thing would be to take her out somewhere deep and the Sink Her instead of letting filthy foreign hands rip her apart piece by piece, I am appalled, I am disappointed, I am disgusted Have they NO Honor, Have THEY No Decency, Have they NO respect That is a Great Symbol of the United States for which she was built and should still represent, Contact your Senators, Contact your Congressman, contact the President of the United States and state the case of the Urgency, and imperative mission to Preserve and Save the S.S.United States

Submitted by Chris at: March 20, 2010
This ship is the LAST classical liner of the postwar era still existing and the fastest passenger liner ever build. Thus, the SSUS is unique and of enormous historical significance and must be preserved whenever possible for future generations.

Submitted by P. Ville at: March 17, 2010
There are many thousands of people that have the same hopes for saving a the SS United States as Susan Gibbs and millions more will be grateful once the SSUS is finally dusted off and taken out of the attic. She is a national icon and to deprive future generations of such a significant and tangible piece of American and maritime history and would truly be a crime. If she can evoke such pride while rusting in the dark imagine what she can do polished up and accessible to everyone. We can't let her slip through our fingers and lose her forever. Thank you SS United States Conservancy.

Submitted by Phelps Hobart, President, Pacific Merchant Marine Council, NLUS at: March 17, 2010 March 12, 2010 – The SS United States Conservancy’s New York Working Group organized a screening of SS United States: Lady in Waiting on Thursday night in Manhattan. Over 100 attendees enjoyed the film and were rallied to support the Conservancy’s “Save Our Ship” campaign. Board President Susan Gibbs welcomed everyone after the Conservancy’s inspiring YouTube video SS United States: A Call to Arms was screened. Board member Mark Perry then spoke about his experiences as producer of the hour-long documentary. After the screening, Executive Director Dan McSweeney acknowledged the many prominent supporters in attendance and thanked photographers Rita DiVecchis and Craig Billow, who donated proceeds from the sale of their beautiful images of the ship to the Conservancy. All the works were sold at the event, including Ms. Devecchis’ entire suite of images, which were purchased in order to be installed on the SS United States after she’s refurbished. McSweeney ended the event with a rousing call to action for everyone to do their part and Save Our Ship. Afterwards, Walter Cronkite IV was presented with the Conservancy’s National Flagship Champion Medal, which was awarded to his grandfather posthumously at an event last summer in Martha’s Vineyard. Also, Cadet Stefanie Biddle of Fort Schuyler was awarded the Conservancy’s Blue Riband Award at the event for her tremendous support for the Conservancy. “We really couldn’t have asked for a better reception,” said Susan Gibbs. “We are hitting our stride and it shows. There are so many people supporting the effort to save our ship and we’re very grateful to them.” The above video showcases highlights from the event for those who couldn’t attend. _____________________________________________________________ Thank you for the report and the video. I felt I was there Thursday evening! Our Navy League of the United States Pacific Merchant Marine Council remains on course to adopt the Lady in Waiting/Lady in Peril. The council is delighted to be a Plank Owner. If approved by the membership Monday, this will be the council’s second adoption. Early on we adopted the National Liberty Ship Memorial SS JEREMIAH O’BRIEN. We hold luncheon meetings aboard her dockside just north of Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 45 San Francisco. Not sure who is doing what and where on the West Coast but we now have the SS UNITED STATES on our radar! We look forward to being in convoy with the SS United States Conservancy as we steam ahead. Phelps Hobart, President Pacific Merchant Marine Council, NLUS __________________________________________________________ The Pacific Merchant Marine Council membership along with friends active in other Navy League councils, other maritime organizations, the maritime industry and trade unions met Monday, March 15 at the International Maritime Center, Oakland, California. The first order of business was the council's adoption of the SS UNITED STATES. After brief discussion the motion to adopt passed unanimously. The Council will do what it can with the resources available to assist the SS United States Conservancy. An "Adoption Certificate" is being prepared for signatures and framing. Oh, the council was successful in raising more funds than anticipated for the Center; the check and a Navy League plaque were presented to Center representatives at the conclusion of the luncheon. Saturday, March 20, the council will be well represented during the "Open House" aboard the Aircraft Carrier Museum USS HORNET (CV12/CVA12/CVS12), Alameda. The San Francisco Bay Area has several historic ships. Some are associated with the National Park Service's San Francisco Maritime Museum; others alone like the presidential yacht POTOMAC (AG-25), Saturday, May 22, the council will be active in San Francisco Bay Area National Maritime Day events. Monday, June 21, the council returns aboard the National Historic Liberty Ship Memorial SS JEREMIAH O'BRIEN for it's second quarter luncheon meeting. We hope by then the ship's news we will be favorable.