• U.S.

SHIPPING: Whither America?

2 minute read

Three years ago Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. laid the keelof the U. S.’s finest luxury liner. Named America, destined for U. S. Lines,the $17,587,000 beauty was to be the U. S.’s new bid for the transatlanticpassenger trade. World War II changed all that.

Back from her final sea trials off Rockland, Me. last week, the 26,454-ton, 723-foot, 24-knot America was turned over to tall, horse-faced John Merryman Franklin, U. S. Lines president. As his pen lifted from the $7,328,140 mortgage, an estimated $750,000 worth of yearly interest and amortization charges began to tick. Shipowner Franklin had already paid in $4,396,629 for his ship. The Maritime Commission was standing a third of her cost, and the rest was a Maritime Commission loan. Now that he had her, what was he going to do with her?

Banned by the Neutrality Act from the waters she was built for, the America would eat up maintenance fees (perhaps $1,000 a day) just tied to a pier. There was no hope of putting her into the South American trade (U. S. exports up 59% over last year), for the Grace Line and the American Republics Line had that continent sewed up. But in the U. S. ocean shipping business, the Government taketh away, but also giveth. Fortnight ago Franklin Roosevelt signed the Bailey-Bland bill, authorizing the Maritime Commission to absorb all or part of the deficits of vessels that have been forced by the Neutrality Act to abandon old routes, ply new ones.

Armed with this law, Jack Franklin decided last week that his new transatlantic liner would go into the West Indies cruise business (early this week ports of call had not been chosen). At the same time he announced that his twin smaller liners Washington and Manhattan, now busy evacuating U. S. refugees from war-torn Europe, would begin next month a regular passenger service between the Port of New York and the Pacific Coast by way of the Panama Canal.

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