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Crystal Cruises Pulls Out Of SS United States Redevelopment

Image: SS United States Conservancy

After a six-month feasibility study, costing $1 million, Crystal Cruises will no longer purchase the historic SS United States.

The study found that although the ‘Big U’ is structurally sound, technical challenges prevent the ship from returning to seagoing service.

“Over the past six months, Crystal has conducted an extensive feasibility study to restore ‘America’s Flagship’ to oceangoing service. Unfortunately, the hurdles that would face us when trying to bring a 65-year-old vessel up to modern safety, design and international regulatory compliance have proven just too great to clear in both a technically and commercially responsible manner,” said Crystal President and CEO Edie Rodriguez.

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.

Image: Crystal Cruises
Image: Crystal Cruises

As a show of support for the vessel, Crystal Cruises 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 for America’s Flagship.

“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 impressive 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.

The technical feasibility study concluded that while the ship is remarkably intact and structurally sound, modifying the ship to comply with SOLAS regulations 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.

The Conservancy will immediately restart its aggressive outreach to qualified developers and investors to secure the ship’s future, while continuing its ongoing mission to educate the public about the legacy of the vessel and building its museum collection and archives. A national reunion of former crew members and passengers is planned in Philadelphia on September 17.

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Jordan Bailey
21-year-old travel journalist, Jordan, has been reporting on cruise news since 2011. Since taking his first voyage on board Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas in 2009, Jordan has now been on over 50 cruises. He currently studies Journalism at Southampton Solent University.
Jordan Bailey

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