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.”
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
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