Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Titanic-sized ocean liner set for scrap heap as campaigners struggle to fund $60,000 a month maintenance costs

The SS United States has rusted for years in a Philadelphia docks Credit: SS United States Conservancy

The largest ocean liner ever built, the SS United States, has rusted for years in a docks in Philadelphia, but could now be destined for the scrapyard.

The historic vessel, larger than the Titanic and the product of a secret Cold War project to produce the fastest ship in the world, has carried presidents, royals and Hollywood stars.

Now, with funds drying up, its owners are considering selling it for scrap.

The SS United States Conservancy, an organisation dedicated to preserving the vessel, saved the ship from the scrapyard once before, but has warned it can no longer afford the $60,000 (£39,000) a month it costs to maintain the ship.

Launched in 1952, the SS United States was considered a technological marvel at the time Credit: SS United States Conservancy

The deadline for new funding is the end of this month.

After that, the Conservancy said in a statement, "we will have no choice but to negotiate the sale of the ship to a responsible US-based recycler".

At almost 1,000ft the SS United States is 10ft longer than the Titanic Credit: SS United States Conservancy

Launched in 1952, the SS United States was considered a technological marvel at the time, breaking the transatlantic speed record on her maiden voyage, a record she still holds today.

Joe Rota worked as a bell boy on board the SS United States between 1955 and 1959:

At almost 1,000ft she is 10ft longer than the Titanic, and is 10,000 tonnes heavier than her doomed predecessor.

She plied the oceans as a luxury liner, undertaking 23 cruises during her service career, and 400 round-trip transatlantic crossings.

SS United States on her sea trials, June 10, 1952 Credit: Charles Anderson and the SS United States Conservancy
SS United States on a cruise to St. Thomas, 1966 Credit: SS United States Conservancy

Among her celebrity passengers were President John F Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor.

She also once carried the Mona Lisa to the US for a special exhibition in 1963.

But with the decline in the transatlantic ocean lining industry, the SS United States was eventually consigned to a pier on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, where she sits mournfully, opposite an Ikea store.

Architects from Empire Solutions have produced images of what the rennovated ship might look like Credit: Empire Solutions

In 2010 the Conservancy bought the ship for $5.8 million (£3.8 million), hoping to restore it as a heritage site containing a museum and visitor centre, as well as restaurants and shops.

The SS United States as seen from the upper windows of the South Philadelphia Ikea store Credit: SS United States Conservancy

Heading the Conservancy is Susan Gibbs, whose grandfather naval architect William Francis Gibbs, designed the ship and considered it his masterwork.

The Conservancy also names Walter Cronkite, the renowned US newsman, as the honorary chairman of its advisory council.

Cronkite, who died in 2009, had been a passenger on the ship in 1953 when he travelled to Britain to cover the Queen's coronation.