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Posted on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 by

Greg Norris and Susan Gibbs from the SS US Conservancy at Cruise Shipping Miami. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2011.

At a press conference today during the annual Cruise Shipping Miami Convention (formerly known as SeaTrade), plans for the future of the SS UNITED STATES were discussed by SS United States Conservancy members Susan Gibbs and Greg Norris.

The Conservancy’s President, Susan Gibbs, granddaughter of William Francis Gibbs (the UNITED STATES’ architect), began by expressing “deep gratitude” to NCL/Genting for selling them them the ship for less than scrap value on February 1. With a 5.8 million USD donation from Philadelphia-based Philanthropist Gerry Lenfest, the Conservancy has approximately 18 months to get the vessel situated in a new role as a static attraction.

Greg Norris, the Conservancy’s Treasurer, provided some background on the 1952-built liner, the world’s fastest, which was laid up in 1969. After being towed to Turkey (and later the Ukraine) for asbestos removal, the UNITED STATES returned to U.S. waters in 1996 and has been idle at Philadelphia ever since. In 2003, NCL purchased the vessel for their NCL America brand but never realized plans to refurbish her and eventually put her up for sale.

“Our goal is to establish a public/private partnership along a waterfront with hospitality, dining, meeting, retail and performance venues. We view the ship as 56,000 square feet of prime waterfront real estate.” Gibbs remarked.

“New York, Philadelphia and Miami are our most promising venues but others would be considered. Unfortunately, I cannot share full details due to confidentiality agreements but I can provide some highlights:

Philadelphia: We are examining utilizing the UNITED STATES as a mixed use attraction with a casino component. We have a team in Philladelphia and are meeting with a major developer regarding site review and selection.

New York: “The ship’s home port for 17 years. We are in advance negotiations with a developer with access to capital and are about to announce a feasibility study for NYC. We hope she could become part of the Vision 2020, a waterfront redevelopment plan totaling 3.3 billion USD.

Miami: Ocean Group in Coral Gables was interested in putting the UNITED STATES in a slip on the north side of American Airlines Arena. We are still exploring whether the slip is available. An advantage of Miami is that the weather here is fairly consistent year round and pre and post cruise passengers would have access to the ship. This would be our third option.”

Gibbs continued, “Frankly, we are looking for help. It is a significant task to raise public awareness and fund raising is a challenge. This would offer investment opportunities and a non-profit component. We intend to faithfully restore some of the ship’s historic interior spaces. Help us save this great symbol of American Pride.”

She concluded, “We are fostering a healthy competition. May the most committed city win.”

31 Responses to SS UNITED STATES Latest

  1. John Cant

    March 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Sounds like things are gathering speed for the future of the big U. I hope that arrangements can be made to keep her afloat in the United States in one of the cuties mentioned and that money will be forthcoming to save her for future generations. I was still managing the Canadian operation up until the lay up in 1969 and have a soft44WS spot in my heart for this great ship

  2. Numbers65 on OH

    March 16, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Would love to see this ship. Would make a great addition in either of the cities mentioned.

  3. Glenn L.

    March 17, 2011 at 3:51 am

    At this point, I don’t care if they put a Coca Cola logo on her sides as long as she gets out of her current state.

  4. Kenneth Eden

    March 17, 2011 at 4:17 am

    Philly could be the answer, the ships already there.
    It interesttin that Philly has canceled all cruise ship sailings, and the pier or whatever they use there, is going to be empty.

    HMMM – me thinks maybe the old pier will get a renno, and the SS UNITED STATES may have sewn up a deal? Too convenient, or, just a coincidense?

    Whatever, wherever the ship may go,, I am delighted to see the movement on this issue.

  5. Glenn L.

    March 17, 2011 at 7:35 am

    Just to clarify, I meant the ships condition and not the state of Pennsylvania. Poor choice of words-My bad.

  6. Captain Gort

    March 17, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    New York, of course!!!! It will serve well as a nostalgic artifact of the Apex of American power and prestige….that being the 1950s. Like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler building, the Statue of Liberty. Not to mention as a museum to the now-gone transatlantic liner service…which is how most all people emigrated to this country…and thru New York. People need these
    kinds of things to remember America’s Century…that being the 20th.

  7. James E. Therrault

    March 17, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    I am still convinced that the only entity that could pull off a successful endeavor of this size would be Smithsonian based.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a plank owner but also a realist. The big bucks required can only come with a well connected resource that has the contacts, means and perhaps even the will to undertake this large project.

  8. David

    March 17, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Hopefully something will happen to her where she can stay in existance. To many plans have fallen apart starting with selling staterooms on the ship lik etime-shares. I have a brochure from I think late 70’s or early 80’s showing her painted all white with I believe eagles on the funnels under the banner If I remember correctly Unites States Cruises offering her as a time share/cruise ship plans never materialized. She was supposed to have been sold to Seattle interests. Really need to get the brochure out and look at it. It’s in storage. Anyone remember this plan ?

  9. David Ingram

    March 18, 2011 at 8:42 am

    David, the plan you’re referring to was run by Richard Hadley of Seattle. I believe he initially planned to convert the ship for cruising service, then later tried the timeshare idea, before finally falling behind in his port fees and rent.

    This was when the U.S. Marshalls seized the ship for unpaid debts and auctioned her to Fred Meyer, who with his Turkish partner towed the ship to Turkey.

  10. John Cant

    March 19, 2011 at 7:35 am

    I traveled aboard the United States transatlantic and Caribbean cruising, also the America transatlantic and Caribbean cruising, during my employment with US LInes.. The America was not air conditioned except in the dining room and lounges, so was pretty hot in the cabins. The United States rocked and rolled her way to Curacao one cruise. Not many people in the dining room for a few nights. We also went to Bermuda once, but had to anchor outside Hamilton harbour, as she was too large to dock. there. Happy memories and I hope all goes well with future plans. I don’t know about the Southern ports like Miami, as I remember the fiasco with the Queen Elizabeth and the Ft Lauderdale area. Maybe New York is a good idea, but I wonder about the docking fees in both Philadelphia and New York.. I believe it is $50,000 in Philadelphia, which is $600,000 a year, an awful sum to have to pay when finances are important.

  11. Corey palm desert

    March 20, 2011 at 1:00 am

    Just want to walk aboard her one day. I wish she would be in her homeport of new York but anywhere is fine. Someone convince Disney cruise lines to use her as a unique hotel next to their ships.if Philly won’t save the battleship Olympia how can they save big U. David I have that original brochure I got new in mail when I was kid .

  12. Kenneth Eden

    March 20, 2011 at 7:22 am

    I wonder who or what is paying the docking fees in Philly for the Big U now – she’s been there for years.

    The closest I have been to the ship is flying over, or along side as I’ve been in a plane landing at Philly. Oh, those enourmaous lovely stacks!

  13. John Cant

    March 20, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    I believe that NCL were paying the $ 50,000 per month docking fees and now Gerry Lenfest is picking up the tab.

  14. Captain Gort

    March 23, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Make a big floating Indian casino out of her. The whole interior is gutted…why not?

  15. phil

    April 1, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    The only real places this ship belongs are New York Southampton or Le Havre .

    A recent southern daily echo (thats southampton uk} ran a 2 page spread on the ship , one reader commented how her son had been killed on board the ship while it was in port , naturally she never wished to see the ship again , so i guess theres many stories still out there .


  16. Titanic

    April 2, 2011 at 11:50 am

    I hope they restore some of the ships original features (dinning salon etc). It would be a shame if the big U became nothing more than a business attraction.

  17. Tony Diagonale

    April 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Ran around the U often as a kid. For a 50 cent donation to the longshoreman, you could tour most liners in New York in the 50′ & 60’s. My dad sailed several times on her and still have the brochures and passenger lists. Went to the auction in Norfolk with my neigbour who bought the first class ballroom Steinway. A lot of great memories. Deep down I home New York once again hosts the Great Lady.

  18. Bill70403

    April 16, 2011 at 1:29 am

    Wow Tony,
    Thought about donating that little treasure to the Big U? That would be a great legacy!

  19. Hank

    April 16, 2011 at 5:54 am

    Peter, just how likely is it that this will happen? I’ve got lots of hope, but won’t it take a miracle?

  20. Peter Knego

    April 16, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    I have no way of knowing but I admire the Conservancy for taking such a bold step and investing everything they have in this.

  21. John Konieczny

    August 18, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Dear SS US Conservancy:
    Possibly some of the NBA basketball games could be held on the ship. I do not know if there is room. But people would come to the games and the operators could make some money.
    Possibly a hospital – rescue ship could be refitted and used to help people out when hurricanes, earthquakes and famines happen such as Somolia. Although, I think federal law prohibits airline investment, possibly one of the major airlines, or a ‘code sharing’ agreement could allow the operation of sail out, fly back trips.
    Possibly the ship could be used in ‘continuing education’ trips with groups sailing to the islands and having tax deductible continuing education on the way.
    Thank you and SOS
    John Konieczny jmk1950@aol.com

  22. Kenneth Eden

    August 19, 2011 at 4:04 am

    The local paper had a recent picture of Big U last week, taken aft, panning along starboard. A local resident took the pix during a visit to Philly.

    The usual was seen, pale, faded and sad. Sad, no other word seems to fit her.

    Any Big U fans wanting to see the pix, http://www.dailypress.com surf away.

  23. Mickey Wrona from Michigan

    August 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I just purchased a print of this ship at an estate sale by Anton Otto Fischer it was a little moisture damaged, but I was curious and starting research found all this info on a ship trying to survive. I own a scuba shop in Fair Haven Michigan and thought to call attn; to this ship put this info on Face book if it is not already there . I am not sure if this print is even worth anything since it looks like a copy possibly from the metropolitan museaum…but it may be worth something or if you finally succeed please contact me it can be put on the ship when finished.

  24. Mickey Wrona from Michigan

    August 19, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    I can be reached at the email address just in case thanks Mickey Wrona ABScuba Michigan

  25. Stu Wilson

    October 24, 2011 at 8:49 am

    My dad worked for U.S.Lines from 1951 – 1977. In 2000 I was told the engines and hull were in pristine condition. Is this still true? I would love to see this great ship return to trans atlantic service.

  26. vally tommarchi

    October 28, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Wow, reading these posts gives me chills. My Dad worked on the SS United States from its maiden voyage in 1952 until its very last trip, in 1969. I remember all those years, the ship would arrive into NY, he’d take the train to NJ, spend the whole next day at home, always such a festive occasion for my Mother and I, and then the next morning he would take the 5:56AM train back to NY for another 10-14 days, depending on whether the ship went to Bremehaven or just Southhampton & Le Havre. I missed having my dad home but even as a little kid, I understood he was out working hard for us. I have to thank him for my work ethic, and so do his grandchildren. I was privileged to cross the Atlantic twice on that grand ship. It was the most beautiful ship in the world and my dad was so proud to be part of it. I would love to see it again, looking exactly the same, painted black with those imposing red stacks, smelling of fresh paint & salt water. My dad passed away 11 years ago, at the age of 88, a little slow but still sharp. Thank you for giving me this moment, to go back and remember.

  27. Stewart Van Vliet

    December 29, 2011 at 12:00 am

    i dont think america understands what this great ship stands for its the last of americas ocean liners they preserved the q mary on the west coast is america going to be left out if leno can afford to buy all the old cars and preserve them to history why cant one of them american billionairs restore this last of the grand ladies of her era wake up america please if only i was rich

  28. Brent Sjaardema

    February 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    The S.S. United States represents a proud era in American navigation. As the fastest ship ever, it should be preserved as a legacy and inspiration to aspire to excellence. How can we host a British ship in Long Beach (The Queen Mary) and allow our national flagship to be scrapped? The Netherlands has preserved their innovative S.S. Rotterdam in Europort. Can we do less with this treasure of American engineering and expertise? New York 2020 would be the best for The Big U as this was her home port and remains a world gateway for interaction with the global community.

  29. Dave Chalk

    August 12, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Does anyone have any current information on the status of the great ship?

  30. David L. NYC

    August 12, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    I’m honored to be a member of the SS United States Conservancy, and to do what I can to preserve and restore the greatest American passenger liner yet built. The SS United States Conservancy runs a cool website, and in time for an upcoming anniversary, has a number of events planned and listed. The fall 2012 event schedule can be accessed at:


    The SS United States Conservancy is also running a program whereby you can “buy” one square inch of the ship for one dollar. I bought several square inches not too long ago. There’s not a lot of things worth bragging about these days, but “owning” a piece of the SS United States is for me something very special.

  31. John Orosco

    February 18, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    My family traveled to Southhampton on Her in the early 60’s and I am looking to find our names on the official passenger list. Anyone know where I might start looking?


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