Help save the S.S. United States

Restore the SS United States.
Send your thoughts to
(Would like to see it restored? Would you visit the ship?)

The S.S. United States was the fastest of the Great Steam Liners and a one of a kind piece of American history. The ship holds the transatlantic speed record for crossing in just over 3 days. It hosted many famous people and was chosen to carry the Mona Lisa because of its speed and reliability.

The ship was built with 65% U.S. government support and is 990 ft long. It is designed for 1,928 passengers and a crew of 900, but was also capable of carrying 15,000 troops in an emergency. This historic ship was eclipsed by air transport at the height of service and went idle in 1969, after only 18 years of operation.

The ship changed hands several times has sat idle in Philadelphia since 1996.
Donations have housed the S.S. United States. But the ship needs immediate preventative maintenance and refurbishment.

The Hull is 2 and three eight's inch stainless steel. Upper decks and inner walls are of high strength aluminum. For this reason the ship is very stable. She floats like a top.(*)

In 2014 Inspectors for Crystal Cruses found the hull to be in good condition at 1/8th inches, or 5% wear. (SOLAS Regulations require less than 10% wear.) But it needs paint (and corrosion prevention) to survive.

The 'SS United States' is a symbol of American Pride. And it should sail again. It represents our collective work as a nation. And I believe that's worth saving.

Before coming to Philadelphia, previous owners prepped the interior for refurbishment. The interior is metal framing intended for refit.

Occasional walking tours are available for $150, but only to members. The marine terminal provides security and somewhat limited parking. So google 'images' and youtube also offer a good tour.

Deck Plans of The SS United States. (aligned)

Songs for the restoration. (wssus youtube channel)

Current Problems:

The S.S. United States is run by a small non-profit which gives about 70% of donations, 720 thousand per year (60 thousand per month) to the marine terminal. Half of that goes to the State of Pennsylvania which owns the dock. And about 10 Million has been sent so far. But none goes to maintenance or improvements. In fact donations held the door open for no one, since the public is excluded.

Its hard to say the current approach is "preserving" the ship. In fact it is simply wasting the ship as a destination. It could be earning money without expensive moves or rebuilds. Although simple day-visits rarely make the needed funds for both dock fees and staff, much less repairs. So fundraising is still needed. However running an attraction is very different from fundraising. Energizing and Popularizing this floating city requires a thousand small projects and coordination of many people. Its simply not possible for limited part time management to balance two different projects at the same time. They are too overwhelmed begging for dock fees to engineer programs for useful products or services. That requires a unique talent. And the ship is not simply idle. It is designed for a job that no longer exists. It must be purposed. And there are few examples.

The Queen Mary in Long Beach CA is an example. But its now bankrupt and no longer able to sail and was walled into its current location. But he Queen Mary did not have its interior removed, so is more readibly useable. The SS United States is simply, vast warehouse space with limited or no services.

The ship could expand walking tours and Rent the massive spaces. But they are not interested in operation. Even as long as donors are chipping in a million dollars per year.

AmericanSmokeless dot Com developed the expertise and plans for business on the ship. But currently fundraisers are in charge and will not discuss operational needs, oppertunities or strategies.
Nothing has been done. And the ship sits with no management, no visitors and no income, other than donations. Human resources management stems from entrepreneurship because people are a resource. A thriving institution is always looking for human capital. Fundraisers are only looking for donors.

So the SS United States has only one hope. An intellectual benefactor who can run the ship within its current constraints, for the right reasons. There are no other choices.

It means someone must go down there and do it. Not just chat about it on the phone. They need to engage a leader who can make arrangements and report on it at the end of the month.

Failed Deals: Over the past 52 years there were a string of entrepreneurs, all of whom came to the same conclusion. That you cant feed the ship and your wallet at the same time.

The fundraisers have run through a plethora of potential deals with developers, cruise lines, shopping malls and casinos. But always come to the same concllusion. That nothing comes for free.

For instance, December 2017 the "conservancy" began claiming that they have sold an 'option' to a New York real estate firm. The story emerged that they plan to build a 500 Million dollar hotel near their offices in NY.

But the axiom still holds, Its a hungry ship. This ultimately pits the Conservancy's goals of preserving the American Symbol against investors. The ship would have to support its self and a large wad of capital.

The new designee was said to "begin to explore options" for redevelopment however, plans have been explored since 1969. So it remains to be seen weather that arrangement would ever make sense. Profit could fund the preservation or it could devour it.

The Competition:
The U.S.S. John Brown, is an older ship in Baltimore which is restored and run entirely by volunteer labor. They simply rolled up their sleeves and did it. They now sail that ship and accept visitors. The Nonprofit can't do that.. because they need a Philadelphia operation and they simply refuse to discuss it.

(John brown is also coincidentally the name of the British shipyard that built the Q.E.2.)

The Facts of Life:
Every owner has damaged the ship. Tearing it down, ripping out the interior, breaking the railing, selling off propellers. And the Nonprofit simply ignores grass roots efforts to save the ship, remaining focused on large donors who can provide a large contract for Gibbs and Cox, a favored shipping firm.

There is nothing wrong with choosing competent contractors, but the ship needs a business activity in order to earn money. And a process of use that will allow it to be maintained. Donors have been reluctant to give enough to restore the ship. This stems from a lack of credo. Preserving it because its pretty, isn't enough. The SS United States needs to be packaged as a deeper ideal. It must be maintained because it fosters activity vital to America. Learning, Jobs, Symbols of the Great Work. Funders need something to happen on board, an opportunity for something greater, and perhaps to sail as a good will vessel.

Fundraisers are not entrepreneurs. Fundraisers create desire. But Entrepreneurs create Something to be desired. People need to waive money at the SS United States, to buy what they offer. Not the other way around. The ship should be booked solid, even if its just spaghetti dinners. The ship should be busy every day, even if its just curiosity seekers. You never know when the next donor will walk in.

The Quasi asset must be upgraded with the assets available. It needs to begin taking money. where it sits. It needs to find its purposes. The Conservancy has shown they can give tours. Now that operation must be handed over to someone willing to expand visits. Until it can cover dock fees and foster constant renovation.

Rome wasn't built in a day.

The SSUS is not a building. The massive dock fee is like serving a 23 million dollar mortgage, PLUS the massive maintenance costs, which are even higher. There is no profit in sailing a (gutted) 990 foot ship that doesn't carry containers, oil or people. So the ship sits idle at the dock. And its incommunicado nonprofit refuses to do anything but beg for money. The Ship needs to "Serve" and interact with the public. They have the money it needs. And it must supply its ample spaces and unique form to their shared causes, while preserving a great American Symbol.

The present course is certain. It will rot and sink. If they don't call me they'll eventually loose the ship to the elements. By comparison, the John Brown's refurbishment began with a single ad in the paper. And a few dozen volunteers. It just needs to be done.

What to Do:

I think the ship would make a fun national icon and an interesting day trip. The emphasis here is on fun. People don't spend money for things they don't like. I am an expert on fun, having designed museum and art exhibits for children. They are experts on fun too. Its what they do.

Adults love the red white and blue Ship. (They would if it were painted). They are even curious about it because of its grand size and lines. But this must be paired with the child level appreciation for a good time. It needs to be filled with life and exuberance.

I live in Philadelphia and have organized festivals with 50 thousand dollar weekends. I am an inventor. And the ship needs to be re-invented. Few people EVER invent anything. (Puting pretzels on your baloney sandwich doesn't count.) Inventing is dificult dedicated problem solving that makes the difference.

So far, the fundraisers have scheduled 'no maintenance' in 24 years, while the ship sits idle and rots. We must begin.

The ship needs to have people pay and use the space. The battle ship New jersey charges 23 dollars. But its working and used to be battle ready. So divide by 2.3. The Ship needs people. But not just any people. People who are interested in maintenance. Who apreciate it without luxurious paneling. While it can host other things, a strong reserve crew is needed. It needs people to learn how it all works. And to help with events.

And The ship needs a captain to plan its course. Not a committee. Committees recommend. Captains make decisions. Fundraisers navigate the felicitous world of donors. But that's just dreams and pocketbooks. Its not helping the corroding steel.

A competent captain will move the ship forward. Even Philadelphia's dilapidated prison museum, Eastern State, brings in hundreds of thousands of visits per year. Its hard to imagine why 'the conservancy' abandoned the actual ship. They have shown they can give tours. But must be able to extend their manpower to do so.

The Conservancy complained that they're were out of money, So I sent them several high value donors. They haven't complained about money lately. But there is Zero progress. The ship has sat idle for 52 years, 24 in Philadelphia.

The ship doesn't earn anything, can't be reached and is a long way from profitability. It needs visitors and tens of millions in paint and service. But it's still floating. So donors keep giving.

The ship is vastly more complicated than begging for dollars. Oversized historic properties tend to get vandalized by those who control them. They sell off things that are important, (like the Ship's missing propellers) They chew like mice into the packaging, (the damaged aft railing). In the end it takes a dedicated individual to restore the damage from lack of comprehensive planning.

Did they give the ship to a committee to prove a point? I think it's proved.

The S.S. United States needs a renaissance statesman, a technologist, with product development, marketing and engineering experience. It takes careful planning, media management and new methods of coordination. I do that. But you can't just tell a non-profit what to do, they would go half way and be lost. Even the vital fund raising is only half way. Just enough to let the ship rot.

I guess that's why I'm interested. It's the kind of problem I solve.

The Ship needs a leader. Is the candidate familiar with American Heraldry? Steam Tables? Organizational Dynamics? Methods of Architecture? Product innovation? Publicity? Good will? It requires all skills. And you never know which one will solve the next problem. I think others would enjoy lending their knowledge and effort to the task. But They need a special class of leader to coordinate so many people.

The fundraisers live in the world of perception. And it's fun to daydream about the ship's history. For a minute there I thought we were billionaire industrialists sailing around the world. More steam Wilson! But now, back to painting the decks.

The SS United States can only function correctly if it's managed for the right reasons. Social, Historic, Economic and Spiritual. It takes 'all domains' of knowledge. It's what I do.

The SS John Brown is a business. A few paid staff, but volunteers get what they put into it. That's a good deal. Giving cash for a dream is good. But it will fail without help.

The ship must open to the public. But a buddy-buddy network can't open to the public. Because the public isn't their "buddy". So they can't delegate. I have worked those matters out. Just need to get the conservancy * to begin returning phone calls.

The S.S. United States is the perfect image of America. It's a great advertizement for the docks and the Delaware Valley. It could create trade, promote the city and inspire the nation. The people have the unused piers to make it possible.

I developed a tentative deal for a low cost pier. But someone always smells money and the waiting game starts over again.

The Ship can generate a strong involvement from the public. And that resource will become available for maintenance. Once the ship is bringing in visitors the nation could easily chip in a penny per citizen.

The S.S. United States needs a new purpose. That must be designed, just as the ship was designed. It requires an exceptional, multi-faceted talent, long term skill and commitment. But those problems are solved.

Saving the Ship:
I think saving the SS United States is tantamount to saving America. The Ship embodies the kinds of problems America faces, neglect, decay, hang-up phone emperors, missing management.

Let's see if they're willing to Make the 'SS United States' Great again, without further abusing the historic vessel.

What remains is to get the parties to recognize that they have opportunity, but must accept leadership to achieve it.

The S.S. United States will need a separate full-time office of management for the ship - not just fundraising. They need to return phone calls and emails to engage the many people and purposes needed.

And the ship requires a unique champion.

It's fun to do something for the future. And the S.S. United States could be a fun and enriching experience for the community and the future, a place people can visit, contribute and learn.
And learn we will.

Here's a brief management overview.*

And economic schematic.*

With so much going on, I hope you will send a message of support.
What are America's historic symbols worth to future generations? What is your voice saying?

Send money if you want.
Or tell them you will send cash if they let me run the ship.
I'll fix it up, and let people visit.
And I'll try to take it for a spin on 4th of July.
A long job. But we have time.

I think they are destroing it. Missing humidity controls
Missing galvanic protections. River water is better than sea.
But its still rusting away - if we fail to act. We must act.

Please email to say you support Restoration.
Please help Restore the SS United States.

Contact the
And Send your thoughts on this essay.

Tim (Sept. 2016)