S.S. United States Sold To Seattle Firm As-Is For $5 Million

The S/S United States, fastest ocean liner ever to cross the Atlantic and the property of the Federal Government for more than five years, has been sold for $5 million to United States Cruises, Inc. of Seattle, Wash., according to an announcement by Robert J. Blackwell, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Maritime Affairs.

United States Cruises proposes t o r e f u r b i s h the 26-year-old, 38,000-gross-ton passenger vessel and provide warm weather cruise service between Los Angeles/San Francisco and Hawaii, and among the Hawaiian Islands, with a capacity of 1,000 passengers.

The firm was among three bidders responding last July 18 to an Invitation for Bids issued earlier this year by the Maritime Administration (MarAd), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. At that time, none of the bids was considered responsive to the Government's terms and conditions of sale.

An amended proposal has been under discussion between representatives of the Maritime Administration and the Seattle firm for several weeks.

Under terms of the sale, the company paid 10 percent ($500,- 000) down, with the balance payable in eight months. The purchaser will start paying interest on the balance ($4,500,000) and also will begin paying all storage charges 30 days after the signing of the contract.

The all-cash sale involves no Government subsidies and no mortgage guarantees. It was made on an as-is, where-is basis with no guarantees as to the vessel's condition.

The United States, a vessel in the National Defense Reserve Fleet maintained by MarAd, is berthed at the International Terminal in Norfolk, Va. She has been in layup since the completion of her final trans-Atlantic voyage under the flag of the U.S.

Lines on November 7, 1969.

Mr. Blackwell said: "The sale of the United States is a highly significant development for the American merchant marine for a number of reasons. It returns a large sum of Federal money, which had been tied up in the United States for a number of years, to the U.S. Treasury. And, under the plans announced by the new owner, it puts back into operation a great ship, creates some 1,000 seafaring jobs, returns the U.S.-flag fleet to full passenger liner service, and specifically restores that service between the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii." The crew proposed by United S t a t e s Cruises is 500 — which would create twice that number of seafaring jobs on an annual basis under a routine ship/shore rotation of personnel.

The United States is 990 feet long and has a beam of 101 feet 6 inches. She was built for United States Lines in 1952 by the Newport News (Va.) Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. at a cost of $79.5 million, $44.5 million of which was paid by a Federal subsidy.

The superliner set a transatlantic speed record on her maiden voyage from New York to Le Havre in July of that year. She averaged 35.59 knots, a speed never beaten in the regular trans- Atlantic service, and she regularly cruised at 33 knots. But neither of these speeds was the United States' fastest. Earlier this year, with the Government's declassification of p e r f o r m a n c e data on the ship, it was disclosed that in her then-secret sea trials in May 1952, the United States achieved a top speed of 38.32 knots.

In her heyday, the vessel carried up to 1,982 passengers, with a crew of 1,000, in the trans- Atlantic trade. But as trans- Atlantic airline service grew in the 1960s, even with Federal operating s u b s i d i e s , the United States operated at a loss of more than $3 million in her final year.

Her layup marked a rapid decline in passenger liner service.

The only scheduled passenger service offered today by U.S.-flag vessels is aboard four combination freighter-passenger liners of Delta Steamship Lines, Inc.—the Santa Magdalena, Santa Maria, Santa Mariana, and Santa Mercedes.

These ships, formerly operated by Prudential Lines, Inc., sail regularly from the United States West Coast, transit the Panama Canal, and circumnavigate South America, calling on ports on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of that continent.

Each can carry 110 passengers.

R e g u l a r passenger and/or cruise service between the West Coast and Hawaii and other points in the Pacific had been provided until last spring by two Pacific Far East Line, Inc. (PFEL) vessels, the Monterey and Mariposa.

The Monterey completed her last voyage in January, and the Mariposa ended the era on April 7, when she arrived in San Francisco from Hawaii.

Other stories from November 1978 issue


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