Breaking News: SS Independence Leaving San Francisco


By Jonathan H

Main Lounge
postcard-picture-50s-frontShe is a real beauty, and I’m more than happy to have been on-board her thrice, but the time has come for the SS Independence to be towed away to the breaker beaches of Alang, India. According to two to three sources, the boat has not only been sold by Norwegian Cruise Lines, but she’s also going to leaving the U.S. this coming Thursday.


I am saddened by the fact that this is happening. It seems like such an incredible waste of an incredible piece of history. The ship has held Ronald Reagan and other notables on-board. It’s the last remaining American Ocean Liner besides the SS United States (which is in much, much worse condition).

Sundeck Staircase, SS Independence (LF)

The SS Independence could easily return to service. She could easily be turned into a floating hotel and resort in a U.S. port. She could even be put back to her Hawaiian cruise tour.

1956 Stop @ Algiers (?), Spain
Perhaps in another economic era, when Americans felt a bit more frivolous and were able to travel a bit more, the SS Independence would be a viable enterprise. I don’t know if it could now, but that doesn’t mean it would be prohibitively expensive to preserve. All she would need is a place to float and a bare-bones crew to keep her clean. Richmond seems like a good place, as that’s where a historic Victory ship is floating as I type this.

1956 SS Independence Crossing to Europe

The SS Independence was built with our money. She was a subsidized liner. She is owned as much by us as she is by Norwegian Cruise Lines, who promised to preserve her or put her back into service as a contingency of their purchase. In this case, it’s another instance of broken promises and lies — and toxic cleanup being shipped off to a developing country so we don’t have to deal with our asbestos-laden past.

I encourage Bearings readers to submit an email or letter to their local media making them aware of this historic ship and telling them of the environmental and human costs associated with shipping her off to Alang. She could still be saved, if we move swiftly, though chances of that happening are slim.

Rock of Gibraltar, April '56, SS Independence

36 comments on “Breaking News: SS Independence Leaving San Francisco

  1. dammit that sucks. i just figured out how to board that beauty last week. cross your fingers and hope for no rain this week during the evenings.

  2. Jon – thank you again for bringing this story to light. i can only hope that one of our papers will pursue the story before it’s too late.

  3. Troy Paiva on said:

    Part of me says it’s sad and a waste etc. But the bigger part of me says to just let her go.

    I’ve been night shooting on her in the past week as well and I can honestly say that it would cost 10’s of millions of dollars to retrofit her, and even if you did that she’d still be totally obsolete in so many ways (size, propulsion, weight) that she could never hope to compete with modern cruise ships. She is the very definition of a white elephant.

    Machines wear out, designs become obsolete. Death is the way of all things.

    That day has finally come for the Indy and no amount of hand wringing or letter-writing will save her. Kiss her goodbye and move on to the next abandoned location.

  4. Jonathan Haeber on said:

    Troy, I normally would agree with you if this wasn’t the last ship in an era that preceded our jet-set age. This is more vital of a piece of history than the many warships that have been preserved. It’s been featured in movies and commercials and is part of our cultural heritage.

    I think this is a different type of site than, say, an oil refinery or a gas station along Route 66. We haven’t taken the care to preserve any of our historic cruise ships (besides the Queen Mary, which is a piece of history in her own right).

    A second issue I wish I had better addressed were the environmental costs associated with ship breaking in Alang.

    I think San Francisco could benefit from its own Queen Mary. Los Angeles has had success. It may take tens of millions to restore her to servicable status, but I think it couldn’t take more than a million or two keep her afloat as a museum or tourist attraction — even a night club or floating hotel. These things could even be profitable. For this reason, and many more, I would like to see it preserved. We have too many “military” sites and ships preserved in the Bay Area. We have a “Prison” as a tourist attraction. I think it would be splendid to have something that looks less on the dark and dreary and violent, and more towards the nostalgic and glamorous side of things.

  5. I agree, I don’t think anyone would suggest she be returned to service to compete with modern cruise ships. The Indy is an ocean liner, she’s pretty much already the last of her kind. Personally, I thought she served well on the Hawaiian circuit. I was fortunate enough to sail on her over Memorial Day 2000 – the Navy allowed her, as an American Built, American Flagged vessel to sail into Pearl and drop a wreath at the Arizona.

    I agree, it would take tens of millions to return her to full service, but I feel it’s also important to point out that NCL ALLOWED her to fall into disrepair. She’d undergone an extensive refurb in the mid 90’s and was in excellent condition for her age in 2000. I’ve seen it reported that $78MIL was invested in maintenance and refurb between 94 and 2001.

    Perhaps if the situation were different, I would agree that it was time to let her go. But not when her demise has been intentional from the day NCL purchased her. The Indy’s last cruise for AHCL was in 9/01 – NCL bought her in 2/03. She didn’t fall into total disrepair in 17 months. When NCL acquired Indy, they announced that she’d be returned to service in 2004. And they never touched her since.

    I understand that NCL was allowed certain exemptions to the Jones Act, because they purchased the Indy along with the two partially complete new ships AHCL had on order that were being built in southern MS. (it should be noted that NCL ALSO acquired these 1/2 completed vessels – had everything shipped to Europe where the builds were completed and then returned to the US as the “Pride” of America, etc….hmmm…). Obviously, it was in Hawaii’s best interest to get cruise ships back in their ports, but NCL, a foreign cruise line was allowed to offer continuous service to US ports without a foreign port of call.

    NCL purchased Indy (for a meager 4Mil) and announced that she was to be restored and returned to service – thus NCL would be maintaining a US built, US flagged ship in her fleet.

    If you want an even bigger laugh, NCL is *still* promising to return the SS United States to cruise service – the SS US is FAR more deteriorated than the Indy, having been laid up since the early 70s. The SS US will never see service again either.

    I, personally, have a problem with a foreign corporation being allowed to skirt our maritime laws and insult our national maritime history. Just another case of a big corporation doing saying one thing and doing the complete opposite.

  6. Jonathan Haeber on said:

    Thanks for that extra input Eric! I learned a lot from that comment that I hadn’t known before. Enlightening revelations to say the least. I recently ran into a web site, too, that showed how many subsidies NCL is able to swipe from us… U.S. taxpayers… in a massive pork barrel grab. All of it seems fishy — no pun intended — to me.

  7. Jonathan Haeber on said:

    By the way, here is the article about the subsidies:

  8. And she’s gone 🙁

  9. Jonathan Haeber on said:

    Yes. Sad fate indeed, Eric 🙁 . Rest assured, I’ll do all that is possible to make its quiet departure become a loud call for action that NCL wish had never happened.

  10. BlueNorway on said:

    It appears that the SS Independence leaving without a real destination port and without decontamination is the last move by the American DHS’s attempt to take over the passenger cruise industry by framing all of the breakers and companies as sponsors of terrorism. The (SS) Constitution was already sunk. See Http://BlueNorway.Org

  11. Thanks John, I know you contacted the media in SF and your images alone have raised so much awareness. I have a new project in the works to raise awareness of NCL’s actions that will hopefully make Americans think twice about where they put their $ when it comes time for a vacation.

    I’m all for a US built, US flagged cruise fleet servicing US ports – but not the way NCL has gone about it. There’s just so much deceit and lip service in this whole SS Independence/United States affair that I’m afraid NCL either thinks Americans are A)dumb or B) don’t care.

    I think they may find otherwise on both accounts.

    BTW, you’re probably already aware, but NCL had to pull one of their cruise ships out of the Hawaiian market last week – that’s been a money losing proposition for them since day 1 –

    I hope to help further that trend. I think they’ll have a harder time getting such ships flagged US again should the need arise. NCL has no interest in serving the US market other than how many $ they can pull out. Business is business – but how you treat your clients/potential clients DOES say a lot about your organization. Disrespect and arrogance aren’t going to work in NCL’s favor.

    I’m actually really feeling like we can make our voice heard – after reading numerous posts on forums and blogs worldwide this last week or two, I think that there’s a significant number of people that have had enough. The Indy offered NCL some fantastic opportunities, and sending her to the breakers was an absolute waste from so many perspectives.

    Anyway, I hope we can work together to raise awareness of how NCL has “thanked” the American people for allowing them unprecedented access to our ports. I do believe a little return “thanks” is in order.

  12. Joe Veraldi on said:


    This is Joe Veraldi. I’m the guy with his wife, that met you taking the photos the day they towed the Independence out to sea at the overlook. Great photos and article. If you have any more, please email them to me. I missed the shot as she went under the G.G. Bridge. I was about 30 seconds late.
    Great meeting you and looking forwards to hearing from you soon. Thanks for sending this.


  13. Bill Bennett on said:

    I sailed on the Independence in 1985. I also sailed on NCL Pride of Ahola in 2004. What NCL has done to the INDEPENDENCE is disgraceful. My cruise on the Pride of Aloha was the worst cruise I have ever taken. I hope NCL goes bankrupt. It would do the cruise industry a favor, if it would just go away.

  14. Jonathan Haeber on said:

    You’re a lucky man to have sailed the Indy while she was in operation, Bill. All I remember of the ship is its abandoned state. 🙁 Let’s hope NCL learns its lesson from running a bad operation.

  15. Kyle Sundtg on said:

    I was licky enough to at least see her a couple of times. What’s such a real shame is that NCL didn’t seem to offer the ship for general sale.
    You just know someone would have been interested. Economy sucks right now, but ther’s still money out there for good investments.
    I contacted a couple of the local media about this a few months ago, before she was taken away, and they had ZERO interest in it.
    “News” these days is really not news, it’s the most sensational tidbits.

    Congress doesn’t care (as long as they’re getting kickbacks, who cars if a foreign company breaks the rules?).
    If I were on whatever committee decided to let NCL have the ships and their precious US sailing papers, I’d be pissed, quite honestly.
    It’s all a money game. We’re the small ones who value sentiment, history, and beauty. I guess the wealthy ones are wealthy for a reason. They climbed and sold 9in so many ways) their way to the top without any real consideration for anyone or anything else.
    Kyle Sund
    San Francisco.

  16. Kyle Sund on said:

    Apology for the typos. I get a little emotional about this stuff.
    At least the SS United States has an active fan base.

    Just one more thought.
    I did see some recent photos of the Indy’s interiors. They were a little dirty, but nothing a good cleaning couldn’t fix. Even being a local, I’d have attended events and stayed the night on here. I don’t have a lot of time or funds for travel, and it would have been a very fun thing to do, spending a night or 2 aboard, even at the dock.


  17. Jonathan Haeber on said:

    KS: I agree with you. Very eloquently stated, and I’m hoping that they get retribution for this. It’s total disregard for the law and blatant payoffs to politicians right in front of our eyes. The NCL America line wouldn’t have existed if it weren’t for the Indy. Once they lost that use for her, she was as good as dead.

  18. Whole Wheat Toast on said:

    Bad news. It got beached in Alang on April 29th.

  19. Jonathan Haeber on said:

    I had been hearing rumors. It really is the end of an era…

  20. Gorkle on said:

    The satellite photo of Alang on Google Maps shows shows a cruise liner with what might be two funnels. Could that be the Independence? I don’t know how often google refreshes its photos.

  21. Eric L on said:

    Indy is NOT beached in alang. right now she is in port in dubai india where there is news that there are partys interested in purchasing her and keeping her intact. will post more as i get it

  22. Cheryl B on said:


    I have sailed on the Indy over 2 dozen times, she was my ship of choice, a grand lovely lady. I almost cried when I saw the photos of her sitting in SFO harbour. I agree that NCL deserves whatever comes their way. Eric, I was also on the 2000 cruise into Pearl, I videoed the ceremonies. Also I said on NCL “Pride” of Aloha in 2004 and must agree that it was the worst cruise I ever had taken. It wasn’t because it wasn’t the Indy, the service was bad, the food average and below average. We actually were basically training the waitstaff at our table.

    I am pretty sure that the Indy is NOT in Alang. Who knows, maybe she will be back, miracles do happen.

  23. Bill B. on said:

    I will never forget, as a 9 year old standing at the railing of the forward part of the Sun Deck watching as the Independence entered the ports of Santa Cruz (Canary Islands), Naples, Genoa, Cannes, Barcelona, Casablanca (especially) and Maderia, and then back to New York. But the best time was the five days over and the five days back and the people on board. When? well more people still went to Europe by ship and John Kennedy was the president. The movies played on board were Ben Hur, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, The Devil at Four O’Clock. No salvage company can take that away.

  24. Jon Haeber on said:

    Thank you so much for your stories, Bill. Memories like yours help keep the ship in our memory, majestic as she was (perhaps the most beautiful ship to cruise).

  25. F. Llanos on said:

    My dad worked a cabin steward and later as an bartender on the Independence, the Constitution and the Atlantic from 1956 to 1964. As a 4 or 5 year old, my dad would bring me onboard when at port (NYC) and I literally had the run of the ship. I ate whatever I wanted (mostly delicious cookies) ran up a down the decks as if were my special playground and always left the ship with tons of miniature world flags and other keepsakes. These were majestic ladies of the sea, being smaller than the humongous Cunard and French Line ships they provided top flight service on a more “intimate” level. Their ports of call; New York, Boston, Halifax, Santa Cruz, Madeira, Casablanca, Lisbon, Cádiz, Algeciras, Gibraltar, Barcelona, Palma, Cannes, Genoa, Leghorn, Naples, Messina, Palermo, Piraeus, Alexandria, Beirut and Haifa were and are fabulous destinations. Today’s ships are just TOO LARGE, a lot of the magic gets lost when you are afloat with 3,500 plus other passengers.

  26. Jonathan Haeber on said:

    F. Llanos,
    Such incredible experiences. It almost makes me wish that I had your childhood. Thanks for contributing your memories.

  27. Holly Kear on said:

    I will never forget working as a Cabin Steward and a Purser for 10 years on board the SS Indpendence in Hawaii. I remember spending many nights on the bow and fantail of this glorious ship watching shooting stars and the magical flow of lava from the active volcano on the big island of Hawaii.
    Many famous people have graced her decks such as Don Ho, the Andrew sisters, Hermans Hermits, June Allison and others.

    The Constitution was her sister ship and carried Grace Kelly to her waiting Prince in Monaco.
    Both ships are nostalgic and were the first ships to fly the American Flag in Hawaii.
    I have many fond memories of working on the Indy and I’m sorry to see her go.

  28. mark tollisen on said:

    i was a crew member on the independence and also worked on the constitution ncl stole what i and many many others built i am saddened to hear that the indy is no longer in america she would have made a great hotel/ nightclub/ museum i am now disabled and seeing this is a stab in my heart i can only hope the menehune will curse ncl mark tollisen crew member/stand by supervisor/warehouse manager 1992-2001

  29. Farrall Smith on said:

    In September of 2001, my wife, our son & his wife & our grand daughter did the Hawaii Island cruise
    aboard the Indy. Since then, we have been aboard newer and larger ships but the cruise aboard the Indy was one of the best experiences ever! The staff and crew felt more like family than ship employees. The charm and talent of the Beamer Family, who were aboard to entertain and inform about the music and culture of Hawaii, was absolutely wonderful. It is said that everything changes, nothing remains the same and that holds true for the Indy. On a summer trip, I spotted her docked at the north end of San Francisco bay so I had to drive over, snap a few pictures and take a long, final look. I wish we could board the Indy for another wonderful cruise but that is not to be. I will miss her.

  30. Kimmer6 on said:

    I was wondering what happened to this great ship. I was in Honolulu for General Electric Co. working on a Lykes container ship in 1983 when the American Bureau of Ships Inspector asked if I could take a look at a generator set on it. I ended up sailing it for 2 weeks around the Islands while working on the SSTG unit. Everything behind the scenes was old even then. The tiles in the crew passages were so worn out that they went from blue to black (the adhesive) to shiny steel deck. This was right behind the movie theater entrance. I blundered thru there into the movie by accident in my coveralls. Woops! I think the Poseidon Adventure was playing.

    I ate with the engineers and the deck officers. The Captain was feared by some but was really funny and said the darndest things. Stuff Captain Stubing would never say! The same with the Chief Engineer. I believe he was enamoured by one particular redhead guest who I thought was over proportioned and rather heavily painted. She apparently wanted to make his cruise memorable as well. We got a lengthy description of just exactly what he had planned to do on his private encounter, even working in the furniture and fixtures of his quarters. WE wished him the best and hoped that she had the gymnastic capabilities aerobic capacity to make for a pleasant evening. The raunchy toad! I even volunteered to run the Super 8 movie camera.

    My cabin was on “Sub Lower E Deck”, I think. Freebie for sure but very much appreciated by me. I would joke that I had to “mind my crown jewels” hopping over the propeller shaft whilst entering my bunk. I was 30 feet into fish level for sure. I heard the noisy strut bearing all night long.

    The crew was talking about an elderly couple having a horrible fight at night. The lady passed away from a stroke and had to be put in the freezer coffin made for such circumstance. However, both of the ship’s large A/C units broke down one morning in Kuai and there was a mad scramble to get at least one going. A series of huge starting resistors looking like giant heating grids blew out in a big shower of sparks. I put in my 2 cents worth and calculated resistance values for several other sets of these big resistors and made some jumper straps and down home rigging. We got the big A/C compressor back up and running and the lady stayed cool. So did the rest of the ship. The other A/C compressor was already apart for 6 months waiting on parts….very hard to find old parts.

    Then the next morning I awoke to sewage stench in my cabin. Something else broke. I went to the engineering space where 2 guys were in the starboard engine room bilge removing an end cap off a 12″ sewage line. I was just there watching, being a looky loo like 10 other guys, and commented that it would be smart to leave 2 bolts in the flange loose and bang the cap with a hammer to free it. “And don’t stand in front of it, neither!” Well, I was about 30 feet away talking to the 3rd Engineer when I heard a gushing sound followed by cussing like I never could imagine. Both guys got flooded by sewage from head to toe when the poopey line broke free. I myself lost my breakfast into the bilge from the rife stench. There was some real snickering going on in the Officer’s Mess that evening.

    I also had a secret admirer 2 cabins away. The room steward told me that the 21 year old girl was away from her home (Ohio?) for the first time and wanted the heat of Maritime Cruise Passion. I was freshly married and had to do everything short of welding her door shut to keep her from bothering me. The night before her cruise was over, she was pretty miffed that NONE of the cabin boys wanted her even though she threw herself at their feet. Thinking something was wrong with her, she said she wanted to jump off the little railed overlook on the main deck and drown. Apparently she didn’t know that the Room Stewards were all gay. She was astounded. For that matter, most of the cruise guests were elderly or were very young children. There were very few 20’s to 60’s in that crowd. She picked the wrong cruise on which to get lucky.

    I loved the ship and it was a real treat to be on it. It was also nice to be paid to be there and to have free roam of it. I would imagine it would be a nightmare to restore. All of the pipes were asbestos insulated and everything was manually operated requiring a huge and expensive engineering crew. I hope it lives on.

  31. steve colby on said:

    Thank you J.H. for the photo’s and info. on the Indy. I sailed on her with my family of 5, from Genoa to N.Y. in 61 or 62 when I was 11 years old. It was probably the most fun I have had in my life. We had quite a blow while at sea and I’ll never forget the size of the Seas. They were like mountains. They had to lower the water levels way low in the pools. I remember we were traveling during Easter. When we entered N.Y. Harbor, we sailed past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and we thought WE were something special. But as we were heading to our birth, the Queen Mary was coming out of her birth, and made us look dinky. I’ll never forget that beautiful day. Later in life, I was in Maui for a month on a windsurfing adventure. Everyday day after sailing we would cruise by the harbor, and check out the ships. Low and behold one day I saw the Indy. I couldn’t believe it. It looked REALLY BEAUTIFUL. This was pre-9/11, so you could drive right up to her. I have the most beautiful photo’s of her sitting proudly in the harbor in Kahalui. Viewing your photo’s and learning about her later years has has brought tears to my eyes. I only wish now I would have taken a trip around Hawaii with Her. I am Happy that in her later years she was able to sail around the most beautiful Islands in the world, and she will always be filled with “ALOHA”. Maybe now it’s time to listen to some Bruddah IZ, and remember how beautiful a ship she was. Mahalo, stevie c.

  32. Alessandra on said:

    Do you know exactly what were the ports of call of the SS constitution that Grace kelly took for her trip from NY to Monaco?

  33. Paul Dooley on said:

    I swear I saw the Indy anchored some where in the persion gulf. It floated high in the water like a ship with no fuel, water, ect… I was on watch on another ship, adn did’t have my camera, but teh twin stacks were painted much the way I rember. I workd on the Patiot, and saw the Indy more than a few times. I don’t beleave there’s another ship that could have looked that much like the Indy.

  34. Lesley Deloy on said:

    Howcome no-one at BR ever strapped a Rolls Royce Goblin or two to a 4VEP ? Apart from the fact 4VEP’s are made of wood and burn nicely.

  35. Jane Starke on said:

    My mother, brother and I sailed on the Independence from New York to Cannes in 1959. Does anyone have the manifest from that sailing? I would love to have it.

  36. Mark Tollisen on said:

    It has been 16 years since I have had a purpose for my life I miss both the INDY and the CONNY I even have dreams that I am on them that is how much I miss both of them RIP

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