Scrap-yard owner offers a home for liner Bankrupt owner must raise $200,000 to tow ship here.

February 13, 1992|By John H. Gormley Jr. | John H. Gormley Jr.,Staff Writer

Kurt A. Ellis, president of Kurt Iron & Metal Co. Inc., knows that others have come to regret baby-sitting the S.S. United States. But Mr. Ellis is more than willing to provide the ship a place to stay if owner Richard H. Hadley brings the historic passenger liner to Baltimore.

Mr. Ellis, who operates a demolition and scrap-metal company on property once part of the Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock yard in Fairfield, confirmed yesterday that he and Mr. Hadley had come to an understanding.

"He's interested in bringing it here. We're interested in having it brought here to be berthed," Mr. Ellis said.

Bringing the ship to Baltimore would be another twist in the melodrama surrounding the vessel.

The S.S. United States was nearly sold at public auction this week to raise funds to pay off the ship's debts, including about $200,000 that CSX Transportation Inc. says it is owed in rent for the pier in Newport News, Va., where the ship now rests. The company says it is also out $120,000 it paid federal marshals to seize the ship.

The S.S. United States was once the pride of U.S. passenger liners. In 1952, on its maiden voyage, the ship broke the speed record for crossing the Atlantic. Unable to compete with trans-Atlantic jets, however, the United States was laid up in Hampton Roads, Va., in 1969 and has not sailed under its own power since.

For more than a decade, Mr. Hadley has been trying to resurrect the former passenger liner as a cruise ship. That dream seemed finished when CSX ordered the ship seized. But a federal judge in Norfolk returned the ship to Mr. Hadley's custody Tuesday, after Mr. Hadley said he hoped to raise $200,000 by next week to move the ship to Baltimore.

That's where the 29-year-old Mr. Ellis enters the picture. He has the pier -- if Mr. Hadley can get the ship there. He says he is willing to take the ship -- even though he knows United States Cruises Inc., a company controlled by Mr. Hadley, didn't pay CSX Transportation for its pier.

And last week, United States Cruises, the legal owner of the ship, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Seattle.

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