States is a luxury ocean liner built in 1952 for the United States Lines, designed to capture the trans-Atlantic speed record.
Built at a cost of $78 million, the ship is the largest passenger ship constructed entirely in the United
States, the fastest ocean liner to cross the Atlantic in either direction, and even in her retirement retains the Blue Riband
given to the ocean liners crossing the Atlantic ocean in regular service with the record highest speed.
Her construction was partially subsidized by the United States government, since she was designed to allow conversion
to a troop carrier should the need have arisen. United States operated
uninterrupted in transatlantic passenger service until 1969; since 1996 she has been docked at Pier 82 on the Delaware River
Inspired by the exemplary service of the British liners Queen Mary
and Queen Elizabeth, which transported hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to
Europe during the WW2, the federal government of the United States decided to sponsor construction of a large and very fast
vessel that would be capable of transporting large numbers of soldiers. Designed by renowned American naval architect and
marine engineer William Francis Gibbs. The liner's construction was a joint effort between the United States Navy and United
States Lines. The U.S. government underwrote $50 million of the $78 million construction cost, with the ship's operators,
United States Lines, contributing the remaining $28 million. In exchange, the ship was designed to be easily converted in
times of war to a troopship with a capacity of 15,000 troops, or a hospital ship.
The vessel was constructed from 1950-1952 at theNewport News Shipbuilding and Rtdock Company in Newport News,
Virginia. United States was built to exacting Navy specifications, which required the ship be heavily compartmentalized
and have separate engine rooms to optimize war-time survival.
To minimize the risk of fire, the designers of United States used no wood in the ship's framing, accessories,
decorations or interior surfaces. Fittings, including all furniture and fabrics, were custom made in glass, metal and spun
glass fiber to ensure compliance with fireproofing guidelines set by the U.S. Navy. Though the galley did feature a butcher
block, the clothes hangers in the luxury cabins were aluminum. The ballroom's grand piano was of a rare, fire-resistant wood
species, though originally specified in aluminum — and accepted only after a demonstration in which gasoline was poured
upon the wood and ignited, without the wood itself igniting.
The construction of the ship's superstructure involved the largest use of aluminum in any construction project
to that time, and presented a challenge to the builders in joining the aluminum structure to the steel decks below. The significant
use of aluminum provided extreme weight savings. At 105 feet (32 m) beam, United States was built to Panamax capacity,
ensuring the ship could clear the Panama Canal locks with just 2 feet (0.6 m) to spare on either side.
United States had the most powerful steam turbines in a merchant marine vessel. The ship
was capable of steaming astern at over 20 kn (23 mph; 37 km/h), and could carry enough fuel and stores to steam non-stop
for over 10,000 nautical miles (12,000 mi; 19,000 km).
Captains of United States included Harry Manning, Roy Edward Fiddler, John Anderson and Leroy J. Alexanderson
On its maiden voyage on 4 July 1952, United States broke the transatlantic speed record held by Queen
Mary for the previous 14 years by over 10 hours, making the maiden crossing from the Ambrose lightship at New York Harbor
to Bishop Rock off Cornwall, UK in 3 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes at an average speed of 35.59 knots (40.96 mph) The liner
also broke the westbound crossing record by returning to America in 3 days 12 hours and 12 minutes at an average speed of
34.51 knots (39.71 mph), thereby obtaining both the eastbound and westbound speed records and the Blue Riband —
the first time a U.S. flagged ship had held the speed record since the SS Baltic claimed the prize a century earlier.
United States maintained a 30-knot (35 mph) crossing speed on the North Atlantic in a
service career that lasted 17 years.
United States lost the eastbound speed record in 1990 — however, United States
continues to hold the Blue Riband as all subsequent record breakers were neither in passenger service nor were their voyages
The maximum speed of United States was deliberately exaggerated and kept obscure for many years. An impossible
value of 43 knots (49 mph) was leaked to reporters by engineers after the first speed trial. The actual top speed —
38.3 knots (44.1 mph) — was not revealed until 1977.
While United States was at Newport News for annual overhaul in 1969, the shipping line decided to withdraw
the ship from service, docking the ship there. After a few years, the ship was relocated to Norfolk, Virginia. Subsequently,
ownership passed between several companies. In 1978, the vessel was sold to private interests who hoped to revitalize the
liner as a time share cruise ship. Financing fell through and the ship was placed up for auction by MARAD. During the 1980s,
United States was considered by the United States Navy as a troop ship or a hospital ship, to be called the USS United
States, but this plan never materialized.
In 1984, the ship's remaining fittings and furniture were sold at auction in Norfolk. Some of the furniture now
represents a substantial portion of the interior of Windmill Point, a restaurant in Nags Head, North Carolina. These items
include dining room tables, chairs in the main restaurant and the bar and lounge tables, chairs in the upstairs lounge as
well as other items. One of the ship's propellers is mounted at the entrance to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York
City. Another propeller is mounted on a platform near the waterfront at SUNY Maritime College at Fort Schuyler, NY. In 1992,
a new consortium of owners purchased the vessel and had the vessel towed to Turkey and then Ukraine, where it underwent asbestos
removal in 1994 . No viable agreements were reached in the U.S. for a reworking of the vessel, and in 1996 United States
was towed to its current location at Pier 84 in Philadelphia ..
In 1999, the SS United States Foundation and the SS United States Conservancy (then known as the SS United States
Preservation Society, Inc.) succeeded in having the ship placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2003, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) purchased the ship from the estate of Edward Cantor when the ship was put
up for auction after his death, with the stated intent of fully restoring the ship to a service role in their newly-announced
American-flagged Hawaiian passenger service called NCL America. The SS United States is one of only a handful of ships
eligible to enter such service because of the Jones Act, which requires that
any vessel engaged in domestic commerce be built and flagged in the USA and operated by a predominantly American crew. In
August, 2004, NCL commenced feasibility studies regarding a new build-out of the vessel, and in May 2006, Malaysia Star Cruises
(which owns NCL), stated that the company's next project is "the restoration of the...United States." By May, 2007,
an extensive technical review had been completed, with NCL stating that the ship was in sound condition. The cruise line has
over 100 boxes of the ship's blueprints cataloged. While this documentation is not complete, NCL believed it will provide
useful information for the planned refit. However, when NCL America began operation, it used other ships rather than United States. In February 2009 it was reported that Star Cruises, to whom United
States' ownership was transferred, and NCL were looking for buyers for the liner.
A group of the ship's fans keeps in touch via the Internet and meets annually in Philadelphia. The ship receives
occasional press coverage, such as a 2007 feature article in USA Today and there have been various projects through
the years to celebrate the ship, such as lighting it on special occasions. A
television documentary about the ship, titled SS United States: Lady in Waiting, was completed in early February, 2008 and
was distributed through Chicago's WTTW TV and American Public Television with the first airings in May, 2008 on PBS stations
throughout the USA.The Big U: The Story of the SS United States, another documentary about the ship, is currently in
development by Rock Creek Productions.
It was reported in March 2010 that scrapping bids for the ship were being collected. Norwegian Cruise Lines, in
a press release, noted that there are large costs associated with keeping United States afloat in her current state—around
$800,000 a year—and that, as the SS United States Conservancy has not been able to tender an offer for the ship, the
company was actively seeking a "suitable buyer.”
Ever since 2009 when Norwegian Cruise Line offered up the ship for sale there have been numerous plans to rescue
the liner from the scrap yard. The SS United States Conservancy, a group trying to save the ship from the scrapyard has been
trying to come up with funding to purchase the ship.
On July 30, 2009, H.F.Lenfest, a Philadelphia media entrepreneur and philantropist, pledged a matching grant of
$300,000 to help the United States Conservancy purchase the vessel from Star Cruises.
As of May 7, 2010 over $50,000 has been raised by The SS United States Conservancy
On July 1, 2010, the Conservancy struck a deal with Norwegian Cruise Line to buy the ship from them for a reported
$3 million dollars, despite a scrapper's bid for $5.9 million. The Conservancy has until February 2011 to buy the ship and
satisfy Enviromental Protection Agency concerns related to toxins on the ship. They then have 20 months of financial support
to develop a plan to clean the ship of toxins and make the ship financially self-supporting, possibly as a hotel or development. SS United States Conservancy executive director Dan Mc Sweeney has stated that likely
locations for the ship include Philadelphia, New York and Miami.
November 2010, the Conservancy announced a plan to develop a "multi-purpose waterfront complex" with hotels, restaurants and
a casino along the coast in South Philadelphia at the proposed location for the stalled Foxwood's casino project. A planned
release of a detailed study for the site is scheduled for late November 2010, in advance of Pennsylvania's 10 December 2010
deadline for a deal aimed at Harrah’s Entertainment taking over the casino project.
United States Concevancy link: http://www.ssunitedstatesconservancy.org/