New donations help SS United States stay afloat

The following is the text of a news release from the SS United States Conservancy:

(WASHINGTON) — In early October, the SS United States Conservancy was only weeks away from being forced to sell America's flagship to a recycler. However, thanks to the generosity of supporters from around the world to the #SaveTheUnitedStates campaign, we are pleased to announce that we have raised sufficient funds to keep the ship afloat well into next year. 

The conservancy had announced last month that it had retained a broker to explore the ship's sale to a U.S.-based recycler because of the financial burdens imposed by the 1,000-foot-long liner's monthly expenses. The conservancy acquired the SS United States in 2011 and has been working to convert the historic vessel into a mixed-use museum and development complex.

Thanks to several major donations, as well as additional contributions from more than 800 supporters, the conservancy's board of directors voted late Monday not to accept any of the three scrap bids submitted by the recyclers. The conservancy has now raised well over $600,000 since it issued last month's SOS, including two $100,000 gifts and a $250,000 donation. The conservancy's board was also encouraged by recent progress on the redevelopment front.

"People from the world over have sent a loud and clear message that the SS United States must not be destroyed," said Susan Gibbs, the conservancy's executive director. "From a sixth-grader named Thomas in Florida who sent in a $5 bill along with a wonderful drawing of the ship in red, white, and blue magic marker, to our three extraordinary leadership donors, the outpouring of support has been incredibly encouraging. The SS United States has been given a temporary lifeline, and we are now powerfully positioned to advance our shared goal of saving America's flagship for future generations."

As a result of the campaign, which was covered in hundreds of media outlets in dozens of countries, the conservancy's ongoing redevelopment negotiations have also gained new momentum. Prior to October's SOS campaign launch, the conservancy had already identified two potential locations that could accommodate the vessel, and new investor interest in recent weeks has introduced new possibilities and programming concepts for the historic liner. "Several qualified partners have recently made site visits with their engineers, architects and executives," said Gibbs."The possibilities for the SS United States' revitalization are truly exciting."

The $250,000 donation was made by a West Coast supporter, who expressed his desire to remain anonymous. In a statement to the conservancy's board, he said, "Letting the SS United States go to the breakers would be like letting the Statue of Liberty be melted down and turned into pennies. Unthinkable. Imagine a future in which this incredible, one-of-a-kind symbol of American know-how has been preserved, ready to be experienced by visitors of all ages."

Former SS United States deck officer Richard O'Leary also stepped up and contributed $100,000 to the effort. "I believe strongly that the conservancy's effort must succeed," said O'Leary. "This ship represents a grand example of what Americans can accomplish. To illuminate her red, white and blue stacks once again would serve as a gleaming and powerful symbol and would showcase the greatness of this country. I invite others to join me in supporting this important cause."

Cruise industry executive Jim Pollin, whose generous contributions and challenge grant in 2014 helped keep the ship afloat and saved one of its propellers, also contributed $100,000. "The SS United States has again inspired people around the world to action," Pollin said. "What message would it send to the world if we allowed one of our soaring national symbols to be destroyed? We can't let that happen. We must save our flagship."

With the ship's immediate future secured, the conservancy will continue its ongoing negotiations with existing and new developers who are actively engaged in exploring options for the ship's adaptive reuse. "This immediate lifeline gives us crucial time to finalize a redevelopment agreement that will secure a long-term sustainable solution for the ship," said Gibbs. "We are more confident now than we have ever been that we will finally achieve our goal and bring new life to this great symbol of American history, design, and innovation."

By Professional Mariner Staff