SS United States Philadelphia Harbor


Jul 9, 2000
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From The Professional Mariner:

Film Review: SS United States: Lady in Waiting
quote:

SS United States: Lady in Waiting is the hopeful story of one of the most historically important ships in the United States, aptly named the SS United States.

The film opens with images of the Philadelphia landscape, where the protagonist of our film, The Big U, sits idle at Pier 82 in Philadelphia.
More at http://www.professionalmariner.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=420C4D38DC9C4E3A903315CDDC65AD72&nm=Archives&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=8 F3A7027421841978F18BE895F87F791&tier=4&id=F08E5F2C6B71460CA48564A8238D25CA along with an interesting then and now photo.​
 

James Carey

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I have that DVD and thought it was pretty good.

The sad part about the big "U", is when building her, Gibbs used the latest and greatest fire retardant at that time, to make her as fireproof as possible.

We all know now, that same product is banned and causes much disease and misery.

Good footage on the DVD, though, as well as the interviews at the end.
 
Aug 29, 2000
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TIS convention guests were able to get a view of the ship on Saturday as she lay rusting away at the pier in Philly. On Friday a few of us got a chance to get out on the pier alongside. With homeland security so tight now, it's not easy. She and I are about the same age and she's a little worse for wear. No longer does an all night watchman stay aboard. Her shell port is welded tight. Star Cruises owns her now- so it looks like curtains in the near future. Such a sad, sad end to a great lady. Slides at
http://www.slide.com/r/a5iYqMZ54j8I0NmoooRovvorUsUWrBol?previous_view=lt_embedded_url
136121.jpg
 
Aug 29, 2000
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Yes, it is depressing indeed. You would think that the pride of America would not allow such a thing. She is, after all, in my mind, the last of the Blue Ribband greyhounds. I do not count that silly catamaran thing trying to pass as a ship. So many wonderful photos of celebrities on deck. She was, I believe, the favorite of the Duchess of Windsor. As I peered through the dark portholes, I was trying to picture all the famous people who traveled aboard. The deck railing is collapsed on the stern -probably from a crane heaving the spare propeller up there. I understand she is a gutted wreck inside with even the cabin walls gone- only the floor has the marks of where they once were. I remember reading that she only carried two pieces of wood aboard- the Steinway and the butcher's block in the galley. It costs 1000 dollars per day to keep her in that slip-so I expect she will very soon be hauled away for razor blades.
Funny thing, I always thought her funnels looked "heavy" and oversized in photos, but they are, in reality, just perfectly proportioned for her hull and superstructure. The wide white band painted all along the top is still very snappy and emphasizes a really glorious hull design. Tragic. She might have been a maritime museum for America's nautical heritage. Anything would have been better than this. Poor old gal- beached like a whale then picked clean by vultures right down to her last teaspoon and coffee cup. Please sign this petition http://ssunitedstatesconservancy.org/SSUS/blog/
 
Aug 29, 2000
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http://www.savethebigship.org/ has published the minutes of its last meetings at this link.

Walter Cronkite has lent his support to saving the ship- if only some other big names would get onboard-and maybe Bill Gates with a few millions! Cost for refitting the ship for use as a hotel or conference center/museum is estimated at 500 million.Maybe one of these overpaid movie stars would kick in- Tom Cruise? Will Smith?
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>She is, after all, in my mind, the last of the Blue Ribband greyhounds.<<

That would be my opinion as well.

>>Walter Cronkite has lent his support to saving the ship- if only some other big names would get onboard-and maybe Bill Gates with a few millions!<<

Which is what it might very well take just to make the ship presentable. Don't count on it happening. There are a lot of existing museums out there already which are deteriorating and in a lot of deep trouble for want of anything like a decent income. The Patriot's Point Naval Museum is on the verge of losing the USS Laffey because the hull has rusted through below the waterline and has had to be patched. Even the USS Intrepid in New York City nearly went bust because of the extra effort it took to dredge around the hull to move the ship to dry dock for some badly needed hull work.

With times as tough as they are and even well established museums in deep...deep...deep financial trouble...I don't hold out a lot of hope for the S.S. United States.
 
Apr 27, 2005
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Of course, here is the dilemma. In a few of those shots, she reminds me of the righted "Normandie", and in retrospect, many would argue that scrapping that ship was a disaster as well. My metallurgy is fairly weak, but I'd assume that some of those overhanging deck plate are not merely rusted, but peeled and flaked, as salt gnaws into them. The paint flaking is largely just cosmetic, but those are expensive cosmetics! If anyone hopes to save her, a good paint job is in order right now. If she resembles a treasure, she might get a second look. If she resembles a trollop, fallen on hard times, she'll get a paupers grave.
In my opinion, she has two huge things going in her favor; 1)She has her ocean service legacy, and really, she is the last Atlantic Ocean liner. 2) Her architecture is unique and delicious, reminiscent of the times into which she was created. Unfortunately, every bad thing you see on her today will be revisited in perpetuity until one day, some group says "enough". She will probably never again go to sea, except under tow. I'd say her only hope is to become a floating convention and conference center in New York City. Even then, business will have to be swift to see her break even.

All that said, I hate to commit her to the furnaces.
 
Aug 29, 2000
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Paint chips were all over the pier. I picked up a number of them- red from the funnels which had a primer of a buff shade underneath, red from below the waterline, and black from the hull. The black chips were very thick in some places and thin in others- she has obviously been touched up now and then. A good scraping and an A-1 paint job would help. She has been cuffed about though, and some structural repairs need to be made to the superstructure. I noted the brass rims were still around the portholes. I hope the meeting this month gets results-it is pretty high-profile. They figure it would only cost 1.43 per person to save her in style. When the battleship Massachusetts came to Fall River, school kids gave their pennies- and she was saved. It can be done. There are addresses to write to congressmen and officials at the Conservancy site link above. If we don't do anything at all, we deserve to lose her. I have written to several ocean liner communities to post info and photos and keep the ship in front of the public. I think in these times, maybe restoring a symbol of our nation's former glory might be a rallying point. We know what it's like to be down- but not out.
 
Sep 22, 2003
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The good old United States. I take a look at her every time I drive over the bridge to Camden. she's appeared on the local news numerous times throughout the years and from time to time in the papers theres talk of her possibly being used as a Cruise Ship or Appartments. I have no idea what they plan on doing w/ her, but it would be nice if was turned into a floating Museum.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Her architecture is unique and delicious...<<

And in terms of her internal outfitting and some external, also long gone.

Oddly enough, this could be made to work in any conservancy's favour since they wouldn't have to rip anything out and above all, wouldn't have to deal with the asbestos that made up a lot of the ship's lagging. The costs of environmental compliance wouldn't turn an otherwise noble effort into an exercise in expen$ive futility.

Some of the hull issues will be a matter of some fairly substantial concern. The warships which make up the bulk of most maritime/naval museums benefitted from long periods in preservation/mothballs, and that included cathodic protection to keep seawater from eating the hull alive, and dehumidifiers to preserve the interior. It's interesting to see such a ship being unsealed and I have when the USS Sphinx was recommissioned to act as a tender for the hydrofoil missile craft the Navy once had. It was like seeing a place where time had literally stood still.

The United States used to have this same protection but it was all switched off years ago, and the ship left to the none too tender mercies of the elements. The consequences are there for all to see, and it's not pretty!
 

James Carey

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Ironicly, her coffin nail was the material that made her "fireproof". We can only imagine what might have been if asbestous wasn't used in her construction. IMHO, she would have been long gone if she was built with conventional materials and we would be referring to her as we do with the other classic liners of the past.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>We can only imagine what might have been if asbestous wasn't used in her construction.<<

Ahhhh...I don't know that this would have made as much of a difference as one might think. Take a look at a lot of the ships which have become museums and you'll see that quite a bit of the material is still intact. That includes asbestos lagging.

It really doesn't need to be as much of a problem as one might think. In fact, it's easier and actually "greener" to leave it where it is and keep it up properly then it is to rip it out. The whole rip out process is what puts all kinds of fibres airborne.
 
May 5, 2005
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An interesting paradox here I haven't seen mentioned is; NCL America itself.... The fact that the ship has to be a US flagged vessel in the first place hasn't done any economic good for NCL Don't know the numbers, but if she could have had a home port such as Nassau, like the rest of the fleet, I'll bet the company could have seen less red ink.
NCL America seems to have suffered the same fate that the United States Lines themselves faced 40 years ago. All the strikes by the American personnel in the 1960's, and the lack of trained American personnel for NCL to recruit in the present, not to mention their inflated payroll, has had the same effect. NCL had a tough row to hoe with NCL America, and their fleet has dwindled from 3 vessels to one. I think their intentions were honorable, and they shouldn't be pilloried. The silly outdated laws about ports and who can operate the vessels, and how many ports of call in 1 nation, etc, has undoubtedly had a big effect on the outcome here. Lame, but true. In fact, NCL wanted to purchase the SSUS in the 70's when she was still a complete, perfectly preserved ship. No dice, more pesky laws about selling her to foreigners. Couldn't let those Norwegians have all that horsepower and those fancy propellers, might fall into the wrong hands??..Who knows..The France was their 2nd choice. Oh well, like I have said before, the France received an unflattering refit anyway.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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I think the issue you're speaking to is known as "cabotage" and it was a well intentioned but has a demonsterable habit of backfiring.

The purchase of the SSUS and keeping her on the U.S. registry would have got around that had she ever made it back into service. However, I have to wonder if NCL ever seriously intended to try. There may well have been some sort of advantage in the book keeping in just having her as she was a black hole for money regardless. They had to know that refitting her for service would have been an even bigger black hole. The money they would have to spend would be better spent on a new ship.

Somebody with a better understanding of U.S. cabotage laws will need to speak to this.
 
May 5, 2005
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Thanks, I had forgotten the word "cabotage" and have known even less about the actual law itself. I was pointing out that NCL had a pretty well-oiled machine, but NCL America was a mess for them. I am not one to talk smack of the American work ethic, But I know the lack of qualified experienced American personnel was a big problem for them at the start. They have had to train people, and they have had a lot of turnover, which hasn't been a good thing. I too wonder what their agenda was for buying the ship in the first place. Maybe they were just too optimistic.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I too wonder what their agenda was for buying the ship in the first place. Maybe they were just too optimistic.<<

That may well be the case. Businesses have a long record of misreading the tea leaves of the economy and markets which come back to haunt them. They are not always the pragmatic critical thinking realists we would like to believe.

That and they were looking to have a ship that was American built, registered and crewed so the cabotage laws which cause intinerary problems for foreign built and registered ships just wouldn't have been an issue.
 

John DeLoache

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Jun 3, 2004
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I am traveling to Philly on business in early May. While I'm there I want to get at least a couple of pictures of the Big U, but I'm not familiar with the city. Someone please give me an idea of where she is in relation to the University of Penn. campus.
 

Mark Baber

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Jul 4, 2000
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She's on the Delaware, a couple of miles east and a little south of the Penn campus, John. Email me for more info.
 

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