- Fleet - Rescuing the USS Williamsburg


Rescuing the USS Williamsburg

After GreenYachts released a refit concept for the former presidential yacht 'USS Williamsburg', spoke to the designer and current owner of the vessel about this unique yacht.…

In January, our sister site published renderings of a concept to refit the 74.3m USS Williamsburg, a vessel with a rich history and the potential to be a unique refit project. However, with a number of second-hand yachts on the market, the project, which doesn’t have a definitive price tag and could take as long as a new build, could end up a pipe dream, as the vessel’s state of disrepair belies her former glory as a presidential yacht for US president Harry Truman.

Launched in 1930, for the past 20 years she has sat in Italian waters at the Navalmare shipyard in La Spezia. Originally, a local shipyard near the Navalmare shipyard, which gutted the interior and removed the asbestos on board, held her. She was then due to be refurbished and resold. However, after a multi-million dollar restoration project fell through the yard defaulted. “When local authorities took over the failed shipyard and decided to rebuild the sea front in that area they had to find a place to put the Williamsburg, or destroy her,” said Federico Albano, a shareholder and director at Navalemare. “They asked Navalmare if we were interested in having the yacht. We decided to take the risk and we took the ship, with the aim to refurbish it entirely and sell it on the market.”

However, this process to sell the vessel has been harder than first anticipated, especially following the global financial crisis. “We tried both with brokers and with direct contacts and even with the White House [to sell the yacht], but every time we were close to signing a contract global turmoil ensued,” said Albano.

If not saved by a new owner the USS Williamsburg is likely to be scrapped.

A potential issue with the refit project proposed by Green Yachts is that it is a complex and time-consuming proposal. Mattia Massola, senior designer at Green Yachts said, “the first step is to take her out of the water and remove the metal that has to be repaired, or made new, and after that we can start thinking about the restyling of the interiors and exteriors. It’s not just a matter of paint, and a lot of the parts can be reused, but it’s a huge amount of work: The timing would be longer than with a brand new build.” This was further outlined by Albano, as the the steel panels on the submerged part of the ship have been submersed for almost 40 years.

Speculating about the price of such a project Massola was unable to give a specific price for the refurbishment, but said, “considering the length of the yacht, in terms of beam she is much smaller than current superyachts, the price for the interiors is less than if you compare them to a new build 74m and of course there will be, possibly, a 10 per cent margin on a new build if you consider costing in Europe.” Indeed Albano was equally not able to speculate on a price of a refurbishment stating, “The current asking price varies from the level of refurbishment we are considering.”

However, time to salvage the vessel and restore it is going to become increasingly difficult, not only due to the vessel’s continuing degeneration, but also due to the ship’s hull design, as Albano explained: “The entire hull of the ship is a piece of art with a series of construction details that are unique, together with the overall hull panels that use rivets instead of welding. Today, people that are skilled in these kind of techniques are becoming really difficult to find.”

But Albano believes that despite the large amount of work that will need to be carried out, "the charm of the ship, together with a really unpaired ratio of speed/consumption could really make the Williamsburg unique and valuable for every owner. I personally did the refurbishment pre-engineering and I found out that the ship could easily reach speeds of 18-19 knots for fast cruising with the consumption of a modern motoryacht of one third of the length."

While there has been some interest in the project from Europe Massola said that there is a party from the Middle East currently interested in taking on Green Yacht’s proposed project, but at this stage it is too early to speculate if it will come to fruition.

For more information on Green Yachts' refit proposal visit

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Rescuing the USS Williamsburg


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