Via the SS United States Conservancy, Executive Director Susan Gibbs has just released a statement to update the current situation in regard to the ship. The joint aim of the Conservancy and co partner, Crystal Cruises, is to restore the world famous ocean liner to commercial cruise service as a deluxe vessel of 60,000 tons, carrying around eight hundred passengers.
A team of extensively qualified marine experts, working under the leadership of retired USCG Rear Admiral Tim Sullivan, has begun the task of carrying through a truck to keel survey of the United States. In terms of her structural and engineering status, this needs to be fully carried out and evaluated before the next stage in planning the liner’s rebirth can be made official.
In these circumstances, it is not surprising that Crystal Cruises is remaining slightly enigmatic, even coy. This ongoing process will be a slow, methodical, gradually evolving body of work, needing time and care to complete concisely. With no banner landmarks to announce during this long slog, any sensational announcements on the part of Crystal could prove to be embarrassingly premature.
However, through the conduit of the SS US, this first update report has been made. For their part, it makes sense for Susan Gibbs and co to keep the ship as newsworthy as they can, without giving anything of commercial interest to Crystal away.
The result is what we see; a slow but important siphoning out of progress updates via the Conservancy, while Crystal and it’s evaluation, engineering and revenue teams get quietly on behind the scenes with the actual nuts and bolts of planning and carrying through what will be the most exciting and implausible renaissance in maritime history.
So, what do we know now, after the recent announcement?
It is beyond doubt that the entire machinery power plant will have to be completely replaced and updated for a more modern, fuel efficient era. In her Trans- Atlantic heyday, the SS United States guzzled bunker oil as if it were so much cheap table wine. And, obviously, this major job- the maritime equivalent of open heart surgery- can only be done via an extensive dry docking.
This is not without parallel. Something very similar was done successfully to the Queen Elizabeth 2 in Germany over the winter of 1986-87, when the liner was converted from steam turbine to diesel electric propulsion. And technology has advanced considerably since those days.
Crucially, in depth evaluations of the hull’s strength and integrity have also been carried through- a vital prerequisite. Divers have inspected her fuel tanks, and the salt water ballast tanks have also been assessed. The company has also begun conducting evaluations of all the products and materials used in the original construction of the liner back in 1952, and it is understood that these are currently ongoing.
While much of this is, of course, ‘tech speak’, it does point to considerable progress and, for sure, a quiet, but very definite, sense of forward momentum.
Hopefully, we can hope for small, but similarly important updates over the next few months until the expected completion of the complete survey in November. In the interval between then and now, even small announcements can only help fuel that renewed sense of purpose and intent.
It would make sense that these should come via the SS US Conservancy, rather than directly from Crystal Cruises, at least in the interim. And all of us who care about this project should be heartened to see the two operations working hand in glove to seamlessly realise their joint, shared objective- the restoration of one of the most symbolic and stately vessels that ever cut salt water, the SS. United States.