Newspaper article International New York Times

Donors Save Revered Ship from Scrapyard

Newspaper article International New York Times

Donors Save Revered Ship from Scrapyard

Article excerpt

Contributions of more than $600,000 will provide more time for those interested in preserving the S.S. United States to work with developers and investors.

For now, at least, the next port of call for the S.S. United States -- the fastest oceanliner ever built -- will not be the scrapyard, thanks to an outpouring of donations from ship lovers around the world.

Last month the preservationists who own the vessel faced a nightmare: Short of cash, they had been forced to seek bids from scrappers. Complicating matters, it was not even certain that the scrappers would be enthusiastic, given the decline in global commodities prices.

But in recent weeks, the ship's existential crisis attracted donors from around the world who have contributed more than $600,000, buying time for the preservationist group, the S.S. United States Conservancy, to press ahead with a plan to redevelop the vessel.

The donations -- including an anonymous gift of $250,000 -- will cover the cost of caring for the ship "well into next year," said Susan Gibbs, the conservancy's executive director.

The conservancy received three offers to melt down the vessel, but on Monday its board voted unanimously to reject those bids. The ship has particular value as scrap metal because, according to naval historians, it contains more aluminum than any structure built before the World Trade Center.

The Titanic-size luxury liner is docked in the Delaware River in Philadelphia. It has not moved under its own power for decades. But half a century ago, it dominated passenger service on the high seas between New York City and Europe. The ship was so powerful that during the Cold War, its top speed was a state secret.

In a statement, the anonymous donor said that scrapping the ship would be "like letting the Statue of Liberty be melted down and turned into pennies."

The conservancy has also received two $100,000 gifts, including one from Richard O'Leary, who as a young man served as the ship's navigator for five years during the midcentury glory days. …

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