Saving the World's Fastest Ocean Liner From the Scrap Yard

Wikipedia//CC BY-SA 3.0
Wikipedia//CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia//CC BY-SA 3.0

The SS United States is history’s fastest transatlantic ocean liner. On her maiden voyage in 1952, she traveled from New York Harbor to Cornwall, UK, in just three days, 10 hours, and 40 minutes. Equal parts luxury cruiser and military ship, the SS United States was built by the U.S. government to whisk high-class passengers to their vacation destinations or transport thousands of service members if the country suddenly went to war. Touted as a marvel of 20th-century engineering, she was 100 feet longer than the Titanic, and nearly as long as the Chrysler Building. Now, conservationists are frantically trying to save the once-grand ship from the scrap yard.

According to USA Today, the SS United States fell into disuse in the 1960s as the Cold War subsided and jetliners rendered the luxury liner obsolete. She was sent to Newport News, Virginia, and over the years her interior was gutted and sold off piece by piece.

In 1996, the SS United States was docked in Philadelphia. The grand ship has passed through a handful of owners and has relied on philanthropists and donors to help it stay afloat. Recently, the SS United States was purchased by preservationist group SS United States Conservancy, who planned to turn it into a museum, hotel, and office space.

However, as of October 2015, the group announced that the ship’s monthly maintenance fees of $60,000 were too high to justify its upkeep. Unless the SS United States Conservancy can raise the necessary funds or find another owner, they will be forced to sell the ship to a scrap company. The New York Daily News reports that the group’s board set a deadline to collect six months of maintenance fees—enough to tide the ship over until it could be moved to New York for renovation.

Although donations have poured in, the SS United States’ real saving grace might be the offer of free rent in Brooklyn’s Red Hook, New York 1 reports. There, the owner of the Gowanus Bay Terminal recently offered the rusting ship rent-free docking space until its owners find a developer willing to transform it into a tourist attraction.

The ship’s struggles are ongoing. While towing the SS United States from Philadelphia to New York would cost $300,000, its renovation could require as much as $300 million. The owners would also have to grapple with permit issues. But for the time being, Brooklyn's generous offer might help the SS United States dodge the scrap yard. To learn more about the historic ship, visit the SS United States Conservancy’s website.

[h/t New York 1, USA TodayNew York Daily News]