Dubai agrees deal for QE2 liner

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qe2farewell.jpgA deal will be signed today taking the liner QE2 to the Far East, where the ship will finally be converted into a luxury hotel. The move brings to an end a sorry saga of failure in Dubai, and will break hearts in London among investors who had hoped to bring the ship to the Thames.
The Financial Times reports that the Oceanic Group has entered into a joint venture agreement with Dubai World – who bought the ship from Cunard for £64 million – and who have kept the vessel at Port Rashid since she sailed from Southampton on her final voyage in November 2008 (above).
Cunard have previously refused to comment on speculation about the future of their former flagship, but in a statement today said: “Cunard Line is pleased that Dubai are progressing their plans to develop the QE2. We ensured the ship had a very successful last year in 2008 with an appropriate send-off as she left the Cunard fleet, and it is very good news that Dubai are announcing further developments to preserve the ship for the future.”
After an extensive refurbishment in dry dock, QE2 will be taken to Hong Kong or Singapore to serve as a floating hotel.
The FT claims Oceanic, backed by investors in Hong Kong and mainland China, will pay $1 million a year to Dubai and have agreed to an option to purchase the hotel ship for a minimum $35 million in 2022. The deal will save Dubai the $1 million a month it is currently costing to keep and maintain the ship while it is berthed in the Emirate – which will also benefit from the refit contract with Drydocks World.
Dubai World originally planned to convert QE2 into a luxury hotel to be moored alongside the artificial Palm island, but the financial crash put an end to the scheme along with many other expensive projects.
“The QE2 became a painful reminder of the emirate’s boom time overseas spending spree,” reports the FT, adding: “Dubai has been scrambling to find a solution for the QE2 since bank creditors to Dubai World, which restructured $25 billionn of debts in 2011, asked the government to find a buyer or sell the idle vessel for scrap.”
Investors in London had hoped to bring the ship to the Thames, to be used as a floating hotel and conference centre berthed near the Emirates cable car between the O2 Arena and the ExCel exhibition centre.
They claimed to have the support of Chancellor George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson, and had produced a detailed business proposal showing they would create 1,500 jobs.
An army of faithful QE2 fans will be desperately hoping that the London bid can still succeed. They will also be fearful of the ship suffering a fate similar to its predecessor, Queen Elizabeth.
When it retired from liner duty with Cunard, the ship briefly became a tourist attraction in Florida, but was sold again in 1970 to Hong Kong shipping magnate C Y Tung who announced he was planning to turn it into a floating university.
During conversion work, the vessel caught fire and sank in Hong Kong harbour. Its remains are now buried under land reclaimed to create a container terminal.
However, Hong Kong seems the more likely option for a future home for QE2, which could be berthed at the new Kai Tak cruise terminal in Kowloon, scheduled to open later this year. Other possible sites include the current Ocean Terminal – which will no longer be required for visiting cruise ships – or across the harbour at the International Convention and Exhibition Centre, where extensive land reclamation work is taking place.
Provisional plans suggest the ship would be converted into a hotel with 400 bedrooms, 100 suites, six restaurants and a number of function rooms.
Rumours of a sale have been rife since the middle of December when the skeleton crew which had maintained the ship in Dubai was suddenly replaced by a new team hired by Oceanic.
The new crew, consisting of 17 men and a female safety officer, did not include an electrician or an air-conditioning engineer, and it is believed the ship was left without power for a few days earlier this month.

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:39+00:00 17 January 2013|Cruise news|0 Comments

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John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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