Following what it called an intensive, six-month evaluation, Crystal Cruises has announced – as was predicted by Cruise Industry News – that it has dropped its plans to rebuild and reintroduce the SS United States into service.
According to Crystal, while the SS United States is structurally sound, the technical and commercial challenges associated with returning the historic liner to service as a modern cruise ship have proven insurmountable.
As a show of support for the vessel, Crystal said it will be making a significant donation of $350,000 to aid in the Conservancy’s ongoing mission to save the ship. The Conservancy intends to resume its pursuit of stationary redevelopment opportunities.
In February, Crystal and the SS United States Conservancy announced they had entered into an exclusive option agreement with the goal of converting the iconic 1950s-era vessel into a modern, luxury cruise ship that would comply with all modern safety and technical standards – which would have been unprecedented for a single vessel refurbishment. Crystal said it commenced a comprehensive feasibility study and professional evaluation, convening a world-class team of engineers and experts while incurring over $1 million in costs.
Meanwhile, Crystal also gained valuable publicity.
“While it has been determined that Crystal’s exciting vision for the ship would have required overcoming various technical hurdles and major changes to her historic design, the studies performed have confirmed the ship is structurally sound,” said Susan Gibbs, executive director of the SS United States Conservancy. “America’s Flagship continues to hold enormous potential as a stationary mixed-use development and museum in New York or another urban waterfront setting. The SS United States Conservancy remains deeply committed to saving this unique and powerful symbol of the nation’s strength, history, and innovation.”
Led by retired U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Tim Sullivan, Crystal’s team of maritime experts and engineers conducted numerous assessments on the ship in the Port of Philadelphia, where it has been docked for 20 years. The evaluation and testing included in-depth assessments of the ship’s structural condition; underwater inspections of the hull by divers; the examination of her fuel and salt water ballasting tanks; and a series of intensive engineering studies to deduce what would be needed to bring her back into service.
According to Crystal, the technical feasibility study regrettably concluded that while the ship is remarkably intact and structurally sound, modifying the ship for today’s standards for oceangoing service (SOLAS) would require significant changes to the hull that would pose stability challenges. Additionally, the installation of a modern, state-of-the-art diesel electric propulsion plant would have necessitated altering of the existing shaft lines and rebuilding about 25 percent of the hull to reconfigure the ship to a twin shaft-twin rudder arrangement. While it was known that the vessel would need to have been essentially rebuilt from the inside out, these specific challenges, among others, collectively posed significant risk to the success of the project.
“Our company has great affection for this historic and irreplaceable vessel, and we will be making a $350,000 donation which will help support the Conservancy preserve the vessel through the remainder of the year,” said Edie Rodriguez, president and COO of Crystal. “We firmly believe the SS United States is an American treasure and deserves to be preserved and redeveloped as a stationary destination for future generations to experience and enjoy.”