Non-Profit Buys Famed Ocean Liner, USS United States

The historic ocean liner that once transported presidents, celebrities, and immigrants across the Atlantic during the 1950s and 1960s has been saved from the scrap yard.

The USS United States Conservancy announced Tuesday that they have purchased the USS United States from its owners Norwegian Cruise Line and Star Cruises. With the help of a $5.8 million grant from the Lanfest Foundation, the conservancy group has acquired the title to the ship and the funds to maintain it for up to 20 months.

The ship, completed in 1952 was built to beat the record for the fastest trans Atlantic voyage. The United States was designed by renowned naval architect, William Francs Gibbs, and was built at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Virginia. Her construction was partially subsidized by the U.S. government in the event that she may be needed to transport troops; in fact, the government paid for $50 million of the $78 million construction bill. The vessel was never need to transport troop and operated as a trans Atlantic passenger vessel until 1969. Since 1996 she has been docked at Pier 83 on the Delaware River in Philadelphia.

On her maiden voyage, July 4, 1952, she broke the transatlantic speed record - held by the Queen Mary for the previous 14-years - by more than 10 hours. The ship sailed from New York Harbor to Bishop Rock off Cornwall, UK in 3 days, 10 hours and 40 minutes. She also broke the westbound crossing record on her return voyage, earning her the Blue Riband. It was the first time in more than a century that a U.S. flagged ship had held the speed record.

The USS United States lost the speed record in 1990, however she still holds the Blue Riband because none of the record breakers that followed were in passenger service.

The ship has transferred ownership several times over the years and has come close to being scrap a few times, but for now she remains safe with the USS United States Conservancy. The conservancy’s president, and granddaughter of the ship’s architect, Susan Gibbs, says the group has begun talks with developers in Philadelphia, Miami and New York and hopes to see the ship refurbished into a floating museum with restaurants and retail.