THIS JUST IN! NCL purchases S/S United States and S/S Independence



quoted from NCL website....

Norwegian Cruise Line Acquires U.S. Flagship S/S United States

Company to Build on New U.S.-flag Operation

Miami, April 14 - Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced today it has purchased the S/S United States, one of the country's most venerable ships built in the glory days of trans-Atlantic sea travel. NCL intends to convert the vessel to a state-of-the art, modern cruise ship and to add her to NCL's planned US flagged fleet. A relaunched S/S United States will add more than 1,000 American maritime jobs and 5,000 shoreside jobs to the 3,000 maritime jobs and 17,000 shoreside jobs that NCL's US flag initiative with Project America is predicted to generate.

Widely considered to be the greatest superliner ever built in this country, the S/S United States was engineered to be faster, safer and more technologically advanced than anything else afloat when she was christened. To this day, her Atlantic crossing record has never been matched and she remains the holder of the fabled Blue Riband.

Knowing that S/S United States faced an uncertain future, NCL moved swiftly to purchase the vessel. NCL is now evaluating options for use of the ship under US flag and determining the extent of renovations needed to convert her to a state-of-the-art, modern cruise ship that will appeal to today's vacationer. The ship is expected to offer mainland US itineraries where cruise products are not currently available. The refurbishment of the hull and superstructure will be done at US shipyards with the outfitting completed overseas. NCL is no stranger to such conversions, having converted the fabled North Atlantic liner the S/S France into cruising's first Caribbean megaship, S/S Norway.

"When we discovered this American icon was in jeopardy, we saw a unique opportunity and acted immediately. The ship is a classic, she was built in America and is eligible to operate in domestic service under existing law and regulation," said Colin Veitch, NCL's president and CEO. "The S/S United States would be a phenomenal addition to our US flag operation down the road. We remain focused on completing Project America and successfully introducing our innovative US flag cruise ships in Hawaii, but we will now organize a project team to work with US yards, naval engineers and architects to develop plans for what should be the fourth vessel in our US flagged fleet."

The announcement comes on the heels of NCL's recent commitment to begin a US flag operation in Hawaii. A new federal law will allow NCL to complete the stalled Project America as a US flagged and US manned operation for inter-island Hawaii cruise service. NCL purchased the partially completed first Project America ship and substantial materials and related components for the second Project America ship from Northrop Grumman Ship Systems (NGSS) in September 2002. The legislative initiative was designed to recover the US investment in Project America, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and tax receipts, and creating more than 20,000 US jobs.

On her maiden voyage, the S/S United States set an unbroken record by crossing the North Atlantic Ocean in 3 days, 10 hours and 42 minutes. Her service speed exceeded 35 knots and she was rumored to be capable of 50 knots. Designed by William Francis Gibbs, the ship is the longest passenger vessel ever built in the United States, at 990'6", was considered an engineering marvel at the time, and held a near perfect operating schedule.

NCL also announced today the purchase of another classic, American-built ship, the S/S Independence, which until October 2001 was sailing in the Hawaii trade but which was a victim of its owner's post-September 11th bankruptcy. NCL purchased the vessel at federal auction from the US Maritime Administration saving her from almost certain scrapping. The potential addition of the S/S Independence as a fifth vessel in NCL's US flag operation is being evaluated.

Norwegian Cruise Line pioneered the modern cruise industry beginning in 1966 with the first dedicated cruise ships in the Caribbean and is recognized for innovation in the industry, most recently with its popular Freestyle Cruising concept. NCL also has a history of developing creative itineraries as the first company to acquire its own Caribbean island, with the development of the 7-day Hawaii/Fanning Island itinerary, and now with its Homeland Cruising program, where 13 North American port cities host NCL ships.


FYI...The largest privately owned collection of S.S.U.S.artifacts is on display in Nags Head, N.C. at the Windmill Point Restaurant. The collection is owned by Dr. Sarah E. Forbes, a Newport News, Va. OBGYN. She bought the items at auction when the ship was at the Norfolk, Va. marine terminal years ago.



April 13, 2003
Former cruise ship docks at Mare Island

By Chris G. Denina Times-Herald staff writer

A cruise ship that once sailed to the Hawaiian islands has found a temporary new home in Vallejo.

Until Friday, the SS Independence had been docked at Benicia's Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet, nicknamed the Mothball fleet, where many old ships are tied up.

On Friday morning, the steamship was moved to Mare Island's Berth 10, and is now under the care of Petaluma-based Marine Survey and Management Co.

But Mare Island is just a temporary home, company owner Gary Whitney said.

"It's not going to be permanent," Whitney said. "The vessel is an operational vessel."

New owners - or owner - have bought the ship, Whitney said. They plan to say more about their intentions Monday, he said, adding, "The owner is anonymous right now."

A reserve fleet official couldn't immediately be reached for comment Friday.

For Dave Smith, 71, of Vallejo, seeing the ship docked at Mare Island dredged up old memories. He and his wife Dorothy, 73, took a 10-day cruise on the vessel on their Hawaii-an honeymoon after getting married May 16, 1999.

"That would be nice if they put it back into service and cruise around the Hawaiian islands there," Smith said. "It's not a luxurious cruise ship - but it was for us."

When it was docked at the reserve fleet, they took a boat ride to see the ship from the bay, Smith said.

"We said, 'Oh my gosh, there's our love boat,'" Smith said.

The ship features a Hawaiian theme, complete with flower patterns painted across two smokestacks, Smith said.

The ship was built in the 1950s and carries about 700 people, his wife said. That's small compared to today's cruise ships, some of which carry 2,000 or more, Dorothy Smith said.

"It was pretty exciting," she said. "We just hope it's not there to be scrapped but maybe somebody with a lot of money will refurbish it."

If the new owners plan to restore it as a cruise ship, sailing it on the open seas again, the Smiths wouldn't hesitate to buy a ticket, she said.

"We'd go tomorrow," she said, recalling their memories of their first passage on the ship. "It was our honeymoon cruise."

E-mail Chris G. Denina at or call 553-6835.

Ship repair may return to M.I., temporarily

By Chris G. Denina, Times-Herald staff writer

Seven years after Mare Island Naval Shipyard closed, the former military base could soon be used as a major repair facility again -- if only for a year and only for one vessel.

The SS Independence, a former Hawaii cruise ship bought in March after a bankruptcy seizure, could undergo a multi-million overhaul at Mare Island, a ship management official said Monday. The ship was moved to Mare Island's Berth 10 from Suisun Bay on Friday.

The 1950s steamship joins other ships at Mare Island. Baylink ferries are repaired there. The former military transport White Holly is used as a training facility there. And the decommissioned USS Tripoli is moored there.

Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd., which bought the Independence for about $4 million, is considering adding the ship to its four-ship Hawaii fleet, cruise line and government officials said.

But first, Norwegian officials must decide how they want to fix up the 1,066-passenger ship, said Gary Whitney, owner of Marine Survey and Management Co. of Petaluma. He said he was hired in March to oversee the repairs.

"It depends on how extensive the owner wants as far as an overhaul, while at the same time upgrading the systems and that kind of thing," Whitney said. "It could take as long as three months, up to a year."

The work would take place at Mare Island, Whitney said. The project could cost millions, and would be a boon to the local economy, he said. But, he added, Norwegian officials haven't said what kinds of upgrades they want.

"Those things are being discussed," Whitney said. "We don't have any firm word as to what they need to do."

Colin Veitch, Norwegian president and chief executive, couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

The company plans to start an inter-island Hawaii cruise service and could use the Independence as the fifth ship in its new Hawaii fleet, according to a company press release.

An overhaul could boost the local economy, said Tom Sheaff, vice president and general manager of Lennar Mare Island LLC. The developer owns about 650 acres on the former military base, including maritime facilities.

"If they do that on Mare Island, it would mean that they would most likely lease at least one of the dry docks, which would put that facility back into operation," Sheaff said. "For the city and community, that would also create a significant number of jobs, although I'm not sure exactly what that is at this point," Sheaff said. "That would be everything from contractors to employees."

Under the current lease agreement, the Independence can stay at Mare Island for three to six months, Sheaff said.

"At some point during this process, we hope they would make the decision to stay here to do the long term work," Sheaff said.

"The maritime uses are still an integral part of the project," he added. "We hope to be able to continue to expand it and utilize the existing facilities that are out there."

Until Friday, the Independence had been moored at Benicia's Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet, which is under the U.S. Maritime Administration.

Norwegian bought the ship for about $4 million from the administration, said Ella Thomas, a congressional and public affairs specialist for the administration's Washington, D.C., office.

The agency acts as an underwriter for ship construction and operations loans, said Joe Pecoraro, fleet superintendent in Benicia. The Independence underwent a major upgrade in the late 1990s, he said.

The federal agency seized the ship after the former owner, American Hawaii Cruises and its parent company American Classic Voyages, went bankrupt in 2002, months after 9/11, Pecoraro said. The travel industry saw fewer passengers after the terrorist attacks.

The Independence came to the fleet April 11, 2002 -- exactly a year before it left Friday for Mare Island, Pecoraro said. Reserve fleet workers went through the Hawaiian-themed cruise ship and found Hawaiian artifacts including a canoe, Pecoraro said. Those items were put in the agency's Alameda warehouse, he said.

Countless other items, though, were left onboard, he said.

"The thing was loaded with everything you need for a cruise ship," Pecoraro said. "There were three pianos aboard, drums, a PA system, audio visual, dishes and plates, pots and pans, furnishings -- you name it -- it was stocked."

The ship was ready to return to duty as a cruise ship, unlike many other ships at the reserve fleet, he said. The administration maintains its fleet of ships in case they're needed in times of war, he said, noting two have been activated for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Independence has a second chance at life, Pecoraro said.

"I'm glad to see that it's out and possibly operating," Pecoraro said. "Usually when a ship leaves here, it's going out to scrapping."

E-mail Chris G. Denina at or call 553-6835.