Donations save iconic American ship from the scrapyard

The SS United States, pictured here in 2001, sailed its maiden voyage from New York to the United Kingdom in 1952.

The SS United States, pictured here in 2001, sailed its maiden voyage from New York to the United Kingdom in 1952.  (AP)

An iconic American ship that holds the record for being the fastest ocean liner ever to cross the Atlantic has been given a reprieve from the scrapyard.

The SS United States Conservancy announced Tuesday that it has received more than $600,000 in donations to keep the ship from being sold for scrap metal, after the nonprofit revealed in early October that it was running out of funding to maintain it and was exploring its sale.

The ship, bought by the conservancy for $3 million from cruise operator NCL Group in 2011, is currently docked in Philadelphia.

Resting at 990 feet long, the ship is of particular interest to scrap metal dealers since it was built mainly with light-weight aluminum so it could reach speeds of up to 44 mph in the water.

For years, the conservancy has met with developers and investors in New York, Miami and other cities, hoping to convert the ship into a mixed-use project that would include real estate and retail developments.

Docking fees, insurance and caretaker costs amount to about $60,000 a month in Philadelphia, the New York Times reported.

"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, in a press release. "From a 6th 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."

The conservancy said after receiving the donations, and being encouraged by progress on the redevelopment front, it decided to vote late Monday not to accept three bids on the table from recyclers.

"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 conservancy said it has received contributions from more than 800 supporters, including two $100,000 donations and a $250,000 donation.

"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,” said the $250,000 donor, who wished to remained anonymous, according to the press release.  

Former SS United States deck officer Richard O'Leary, who donated $100,000, said the “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.”

Those interested in making tax-deductible contributions to the SS United States Conservancy can visit