Desperate Help Needed to Save Iconic American Ocean Liner

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The iconic SS United States is in dire straits, having lost challenges and now facing eviction from her home at Pier 82 in Philadelphia, where she has rested since 1996. The ongoing legal battle over rent and dockage fees, which were dramatically increased in 2021, has been lost, and the ship now has 90 days to relocate.

While the SS United States Conservancy is not to be held liable for the back rent owed, according to the recent court ruling deciding the case, it will not be an inexpensive project to relocate the vessel. The not-for-profit has now launched a campaign to raise $500,000 to cover projected costs and save “America’s Flagship.”

“An irreplaceable piece of American history and symbol of the nation could soon be homeless and face destruction,” the plea for donations reads. “She bears the name of our nation. She needs our help now.”

In addition to public appeals, the SS United States Conservancy has also reached out to state and local leaders, including governors, President Biden, regional port authorities, and the US Navy for help and raising awareness.

Donations to the preservation campaign will first be used to secure a new berth and safely relocate the ship. Costs include dockage fees, shipboard surveys to ensure safe relocation, insurance for the procedure, tugboats and crew pay, improvements to a new pier to support the ship, and preservation of artifacts and collections on the vessel.

All contributions are tax deductible as permitted by law, and donations can be made in any amount as one-time contributions or monthly donations. Each donation can also be dedicated as a gift if desired. Both credit card and bank account donations can be processed.

It should be noted that a new pier location has not yet been confirmed, but the conservancy is investigating options in Philadelphia, New York, Miami, and other major port cities in various states. If a new pier is not found by the court-imposed deadline, it is not clear what may happen to any donations.

If the ship cannot be successfully moved, it may need to be reefed or scrapped. Reefing involves sinking the ship to turn it into a marine habitat, while scrapping would demolish the ship completely.

Read Also: Cruise Ship Scrapping – Everything You Need to Know

“We’re in a race against time to move the SS United States to a new location,” the conservancy’s website states. “This is a moment for us to unite to save this symbol of our nation. Without a new location and more resources, America’s Flagship will be lost.”

Can the Ship Be Saved?

The conservancy likens the aging vessel to the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, and the Washington Monument – all very familiar symbols of the United States and popular tourist attractions.

Unfortunately, the SS United States is not quite comparable with such visible and popular monuments. While there are innovative plans to repurpose the ship as a mixed-use development and the conservancy has done great work to raise awareness of the vessel, the ship remains vacant and unused today, unable to host guests.

SS United States Docked in Philadelphia
SS United States Docked in Philadelphia (Credit: SS United States Conservancy)

Meanwhile, the Statue of Liberty received 3.74 million visitors in 2023, and the Washington Monument sees fewer than one million visitors per year (though millions do view the obelisk, if not go up in it). Liberty Bell Center – just 3 miles from Pier 82, where the SS United States is docked – welcomes millions of visitors each year to see the iconically cracked bell.

Worth Reading: Ocean Liner vs Cruise Ship – What are the Differences?

While the SS United States is a unique piece of American history with a variety of amazing records to her name, it is hard to tell if revitalization and restoration plans may be successful. A great deal will be decided in the next few weeks if suitable donations can be raised and if a new home for the ship can be secured.

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