One of the Last Liners, SS France (1969)

One of the Last Liners, SS France (1969)

Photo: World Ship Society Port of New York Branch.

Launched in 1960 with a length of 316 meters and a capacity of about 2,000 passengers, the SS France was one of the last of a long series of liners that provided transatlantic services between Europe and North America. However, the business model the France was built to serve was in strong decline and would be short-lived.

Operating between 1961 and 1974, it was mainly used for the conventional transatlantic service between Le Havre and New York. With rising oil prices and more efficient jetliners, including the 747 (introduced in 1970), the liner could no longer effectively compete over the transatlantic route. While a jet plane could link Paris or London to New York in about 8 hours, it took about 4 days for a liner to cross the Atlantic, excluding a train segment between London and Southampton (or Paris and Le Havre). Considering one round trip per day, a 747 could carry about 3,200 passengers across the Atlantic in the time it took the SS France to carry 2,000 passengers on a single journey. By the late 1960s, transatlantic travel was being dominated by the jet plane. Unable to generate enough revenue to justify its operating costs, the SS France was decommissioned in 1974 and purchased by Norwegian Cruise Line (renamed the SS Norway). After being refurbished, its final commercial years between 1980 and 2003 were spent as a cruise ship. The ship was then scrapped.