SS France (1961) - French Line flagship from 1961 to 1974; constructed by the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard at SaintNazaire, France. At the time of her construction in 1960 she was the longest passenger ship ever built, a record that remained unchallenged until the construction of the 345 metre RMS Queen Mary 2 in 2004.
Charles de Gaulle decided that it would be better for French national pride to construct a grand ocean liner as an ocean-going showcase for France, in the tradition of the SS Normandie. Construction would be publicly funded, and this lead to raucous debates in the French parliament.
Rather than constructing a skeleton which was then covered in steel hull plating, large parts of the ship were prefabricated elsewhere. She was also built with a unique double bottom that enabled her to carry 8,000 tons of fuel - enough for the trip to New York and back. France undertook her sea trials on 19 November 1961, and averaged an unexpected 35.21 knots (65.21 km/h; 40.52 mph).
On 14 December 1962, France carried the Mona Lisa from Le Havre to New York, where the painting was to embark on an American tour. She sailed the North Atlantic run between Le Havre and New York for thirteen years.
Too large to traverse the Panama and Suez Canals, she was forced to sail around Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope. After the in 1972 destruction by fire of the Seawise University (former RMS Queen Elizabeth) in Hong Kong, the France became the largest in-service passenger ship in the world.
The Oil Crisis hit in 1973 and the price of oil went from $3 US to $12 US per barrel. When the French government calculated that keeping the France running would cost an additional ten million dollars a year, they opted instead to subsidise the then developing Concorde. A press release issued in 1974 announced that the ship would be withdrawn from service in October of that year.
The soon-to-be-unemployed crew decided to take matters into their own hands. The ship was commandeered by a group of French trade unionists who anchored the her in the entrance to the port of Le Harve, thereby blocking all incoming and outgoing traffic. The 1200 passengers aboard had to be ferried to shore on tenders, while approximately 800 of the crew remained aboard. It took over a month for the stand-off to end.
The ship sat in the same spot for approximately four years, with the interiors, including all furniture, still completely intact. She was later purchased by Norwegian Cruise Line in 1979, renamed SS Norway and underwent significant modifications that better suited her for cruising duties. She was sold to be scrapped in 2006, which was completed in late 2008. +