With Time and Money Running Out, S.S. United States Seeks New Home, Investors

March 16, 2011
S.S.-United-States-cruise-ship (4:12 p.m. EDT) -- With money dwindling and time running out, the S.S. United States Conservancy -- which bought the "Big U" for $3 million on February 1 -- announced at a Cruise Shipping Miami news conference today that three cities are in the running to homeport the 1952-era icon.

The vessel, which was taken out of service in 1969, is currently languishing along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, one of the cities on the list. The conservancy purchased the ship from NCL parent company Genting Hong Kong, said conservancy board of directors president Susan Gibbs, who noted that her organization was awarded the ship over scrap yards willing to pay significantly more.

Unfortunately, "we can't proclaim that she's been permanently saved," said Gibbs, noting that it's going to be difficult to find additional funding in these tough economic times. The group currently has funds to keep the ship afloat for about 18 more months.

To that end, the conservancy is actively seeking to turn the ship into a multiuse destination based in one of the following cities (though Gibbs wouldn't rule out the possibility of another viable candidate emerging):

Philadelphia: Inasmuch as the ship has been there since 1996, the City of Brotherly Love is among the favorites. Gibbs, who offered few details, indicated that it would likely have a casino component if it stayed put and that the organization was meeting with a major developer.

New York City: The Big Apple served as the ship's homeport for its full 17 years of service (1952 - 1969), and Gibbs said the conservancy is in "advanced negotiations with a major developer." In addition, a recent announcement by the city that it will undertake a major redevelopment program for its riverfront may bode well for a potential move there.

Miami: The ship could possibly be towed to a slip just to the north of the American Airlines Arena if it made the trip south, though it's number three in the race thus far. So how could Miami come from behind? Year-round fair weather is a major plus, and its proximity to the city's cruise port would make it a prime tourist attraction for cruisers exiting or returning to the area.

Gibbs didn't give a time frame for announcing the fate of the ship, which was essentially gutted years ago during an asbestos-removal project. Interestingly, the engines remain onboard, though Gibbs said they can't be repaired.

And my, what potent engines they were! An undeniable speed demon, the ship still holds the westbound transatlantic speed record, crossing the pond in some 3 days and 10 hours on its maiden voyage in 1952. Its top speed was believed to be in excess of 36 knots (over 40 miles per hour).

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--by John Deiner, Managing Editor

Photo courtesy of Big Ship Films, LLC