Philadelphia Blues

Read in NRC Handelsblad on 24 May 2016:


Pia de Jong is a Dutch columnist living in Princeton, New Jersey. Her weekly writings in NRC Handelsblad are on events happening in her personal and family life. Every Tuesday I read them. Last week she wrote about her recent visit to Philadelphia. I loved this one. Her subject was the SS United States. The old steamship, dating from 1952, is lying in the harbor of Philadelphia. Its owner, the SS United States Conservancy, wants to renovate it, hoping it will navigate and cross the oceans again. But its interior is full of PCB’s and asbestos, and its decorations and furniture are all gone. It will cost a fortune to bring the ship back in its old condition. And Philadelphia is a poor city in the Eastern Rust Belt region. So this huge boat lies there rusting already for more than two decades now. The US Conservancy announced in October 2015 that the ship would be sold to a scrapyard if there was no buyer. Will it be saved? De Jong ends her column by comparing the condition of the ship with the condition of the USA, and the owner of the SS United States with Donald Trump. Can they make America great again?

In I read an article about a deal concerning the steamship that has been announced in February 2016. It was news nobody expected. The Los Angeles-based Crystal Cruises then signed an option agreement with the SS United States Conservancy that it would turn the old vessel into a luxury cruise ship. In 2018 passengers will be able to board the old Grand Lady again, designed by the famous naval architect William Francis Gibbs. The project’s cost is estimated at more than 700 million dollars, and a 600-person crew will run the vessel. In five months we shall know if the deal will result in further negotiations. It reminded me of another ship, lying the Rotterdam harbor, the SS Rotterdam. A local housing corporation had decided to renovate it. The renovation costed 230 million euro, so it ended as a scandal. And what about poor Philadelphia? According to Brookings Institution, Philadelphia economic growth is among the worst. In 2013 it ranked 250th for economic growth of the world’s 300 biggest metropolitan economies. Rotterdam ranked 292nd. That was after the crisis. Both cities didn’t recover. They better not invest in ships.





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