After the removal of the QE2 pennant during the handover ceremony on November 27, 2008 and the removal of the Cunard logo in March this year, the word ‘Southampton’ on the stern of the ship has been painted over and has been replaced with the liner’s temporary home port of Port Vila, where Nakheel, its new owners registered the ship in preparation of the ship’s journey from Dubai to South Africa.
To conform to international law, the name Southampton has been painted over on the stern, although the letters remain attached, and her temporary home port of Port-Vcila has now been painted underneath. To comply with the terms of the sale contract, the Cunard brand has also been removed from the side of the ship. Although she will no longer be taking passengers or operating as a cruise ship, the registration documents will state her class as being ‘a passenger/cruise ship’. The Cunard letters are being preserved and kept safe and will be on display at the QE2 museum when it opens.
A museum! We heard this before, I wonder if and when this will happen and where!
Port Vila??? Where on earth is that you may ask? Don’t worry; you are probably not the only one to wonder. To give you a clue, Port Vila is the capital of Vanuatu. Still does not ring a bell? Maybe it helps to remember that it was formerly New Hebrides? No? ….. Well, I guess it’s time to take out the world. On the map, find Australia and New Zealand: Vanuatu is located North of New Zealand and North-East of Australia. Port Vila is situated on the Southern island of Efate.
Since we seem to know very little about Vanuatu, let’s digress a little and find out a bit more about where the QE2 is now registered. The QE2 by the way never called at the port of Port Vila during any of the famous World Cruises (correct me please if I am wrong). Vanuatu consists of a chain of 13 larger and 70 smaller islands which were discovered by several European explorers in the 15th century, but only in 1774 Captain James Cook named them New Hebrides after the islands off the West coast of Scotland. The islands were under British and French administration and reached their independence in 1980 when they obtained a new constitutation and changed name to Vanuatu.
This seems to be rather the end of the world and a far cry from the owners’ base in Dubai. So why Vanuatu? Why would Nakheel chose a port so remote from Dubai as its port of registration?
Following the economic recession Nakheel was forced to put their ambitious refurbishment plans to turn her into a luxury floating hotel in Dubain on hold and was looking for other, scaled down alternatives to generate an income from the ship. It is after all a very expensive asset to maintain for which Nakheel has reeived a lot of bad press but no return of investment yet. In a recent post I commented on the QE2 going to Cape Town, South Africa where she is providing additional hotel accommodation during the 2010 football World Cup.
In July the QE2 was transferred to the Drydocks World-Dubai for much needed maintenance work; routine marine surveys were undertaken to confirm her compliance with international standards . As part of the process, the ship’s underwater hull was shot blasted and repainted. Her main dark grey hull, white sides, and iconic red and black funnel also received a fresh coat of paint and her propellers were polished. Internal works included an overhaul of her air conditioning and plumbing systems. The QE2 left drydocks at 1030am on Saturday, August 22nd for sea trials and is now back at Passenger Cruise Terminal in Port Rashid. With all that said, it remains to be seen if sea trials were successful.
The vessel is not SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) 2010 compliant and with the new regulations looming it became increasingly difficult to register a ship that age. The limit for registration is normally 20 years for most registries of convenience. There weren’t a lot of choices for Nakheel.
The name change on the stern is not the only change that goes with the registration in Vanuatu. The ship’s flag and its calls sign also changed.
The ship’s flag changed from the Emirati flag to the Vanuatu flag. I doubt many have ever seen or can name the colours of the flag, so here it is:
The Flag of Vanuatu was adopted on FEBRUARY 13, 1980 to mark its country’s independence: The Vanuatu chain of islands is in the shape of a Y, and the yellow horizontal Y on the flag is representative of same, as well as yellow being symbolic of sunshine; green symbolic of the fertile lands, red symbolic of bloodshed for freedom, and black represents the Melanesian people that originally settled the islands.
New Call Sign
According to Lloyds MIU, the QE2’s call sign has changed from GBTT to YJVW6 . Call signs are assigned according to the flag state and since the QE2 is no longer owned by a British company, it cannot be registered under the UK flag any longer. Law requires to change the call sign to the new flag state Vanuatu. As a consequence, the name of the home port on the stern has to change from Southampton to Port Vila.
Tracking the QE2 whereabouts
For those who are interested in tracking the QE2’s movment, check out the following two trackers.
Another shiptracker is http://www.sailwx.info/shiptrack/shiplocations.phtml.