Is the grand old Cunard ocean liner, the Queen Elizabeth 2, headed for the scrap heap?
That’s the scuttlebutt.
Cunard sold the storied liner for in 2007 (for 64 million British pounds then) to investors in Dubai, who announced plans to convert it into a floating luxury hotel. Like a lot of grandiose plans announced by various Dubai speculators and investors (underwater hotel, anyone?), the project never panned out.
Instead, the proud old ship spent almost five years “temporarily” moored offshore in less-than-glamorous Port Rashid, where it took nearly $1,000,000 a month to keep it operational. The Dubai group had pledged a 10-year commitment to its hotel plan. But that commitment was itself scrapped in late 2012 – as the ship was reportedly sold to a Chinese group for a scrap price of about $30 million.
A Chinese crew of around 20 boarded the QE2 just before Christmas, replacing a crew of around 40 who had been maintaining the ship the previous four years or more.
The rather sudden and unexpected development enraged a group of British investors, who had been negotiating their own purchase of the ship, to free it from its exile in The Emirates. Their plan had been to buy the ship for about $30 million, and to bring it up the Thames River to London, where they planned to spend another $100 million or so to convert it into a five star hotel moored opposite the O2 Arena.
The bid, by a group calling itself QE2 London, said their plan would have brought up to 2,000 jobs to London. But it would have taken up to a year to get approvals in London to build access roads to the ship’s dock.
What the Chinese planned to do with the ship was uncertain. Although it sold for a “scrap price” the Chinese have purchased retired ocean liners previously and turned them into floating hotels and casinos.
The QE2 went into service in 1969, and for decades was the epitome of glamour on the High Seas. Marine historians say she was “the last ‘classic liner’ built, [and] she does have a place in history, her lines are graceful, her spaces are quite nice, and she can continue to share those indefinitely.”
The 70,000-ton ocean liner served as a troop carrier during the Falklands War in 1982.
Fans of the iconic liner, which hosted Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, billionaires and heads of state, were divided as to whether they would prefer to see the liner quickly scrapped, or to have it “suffer a lingering death as a hotel or conference centre” like another Cunard liner, the Queen Mary.
The QM is serving out its final days as a rather sad, perennially money-losing tourist attraction in Long Beach, California.
January 2, 2012