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Archive for the ‘QE2 in Dubai’ Category

For the past 5 years, I have been to Dubai at the end of November for the Rugby Sevens and this year was no difference. It has become a routine to check on QE2 during the stay.

QE2 was moved a couple of times, from the cruise terminal to a berth in the customs area in Port Rashid, then into dry docks from January 17 to February 3, 2013. Her present location is Berth 8 alongside the dry docks pretty much in cold lay-up.

QE2 in Berth 8 alongside the dry docks

QE2 in Berth 8 alongside the dry docks

Throughout the year the media fed news of big plans and great changes which turned cold as soon as they were published. As has been the case since her arrival in Dubai, the owners are stalling on information as to how and when QE2 will be transformed into a hotel, and where her final destination will be.

End of October, Costco was named as the ship yard that will transform her into a hotel.

The verdict on the winner of the design contest is still out and will hopefully be announced, as advised on the QE2 Heritage Hotel website, mid-December.

Dubai Drydocks World have a full order book. While I was visiting DW made an announcement that they signed a letter of intend to build a series of the world’s largest jack-up rigs between 2014 and 2016. The docks are full and there was an abundance of oil tankers, ships, rigs and platforms in and outside the docks. Such was the situation when I was visiting. Views were obstructed from every corner of the docks and security guards pretty much interfered every time I took out the camera. Luck wasn’t on my side this year as I couldn’t take a good clear shot.

Photography in the entire area is forbidden, security guards do not respond overly friendly to the sight of photo cameras or video equipment. I found a few photo spots which would have been perfect if it hadn’t been for an oil tanker that was in the way. Weather conditions were hazy which is the normal condition in Dubai.

We first drove to the Southern side where the guards spotted us and asked us to leave immediately. I thought it was wise to retreat and just snapped one blurry shot taken from the car ….

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The next couple of photos are taken from North Beach Road still under construction. We were the only people who clearly didn’t belong into the construction area so it was only a matter of time until security asked us to move on.DSC_6784

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Looking at the close-ups you can see that some of the staterooms are occupied by crew: Doors are open and there is laundry and security vests hanging on the balcony. There is no smoke coming out of the stack.

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I left Dubai on an early morning flight when it was still very dark. The plane made a long turn and we got a good view of the dry docks which were lit up. QE2 however was completely dark and there were no lights visible. She looked very much abandoned. I wonder if the current maintenance crew will put up a little Christmas tree, a nice gesture from the old crew in the past years. Somehow, I don’t think so.

Posts on previous visits to Dubai. Check out the photos, they show how well she looked when she was properly maintained, compared to her current state.

Dubai Visit 2009
Dubai Visit 2010
Dubai Visit 2011

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BringQE2home

Image courtesy Marc-Antoine Bombail

In the recent weeks, new speculations about QE2’s future arose, triggered by an article in the Daily Mail about the alleged sale to a Chinese investor and the possibility of her being scrapped in China. The rumour was further fuelled by the departure of V-Ship’s crew who maintained the ship since her arrival in Dubai 4 years ago and their replacement by a smaller Chinese crew.  The Daily Mail article spread quickly as other newspapers copied the article and various ship lover online discussion boards became busy with enthusiasts bemoaning the possibility that the liner could be scrapped and saying the ship should be returned to the UK.

In a rather unusual move for Cunard, the company issued a dementi on their Facebook site whereas  Istithmar, the owner of QE2 was unavailable for comments as usual.

Cunard Facebook Post 24 December 2012:

We have noted the messages of understandable concern with regards to the recent article in the Daily Mail with reference to QE2. We remain in close contact with Dubai and can reassure you that to the very best of our knowledge this story is pure speculation – one of a number of stories and rumours as we have seen over recent months. Our best advice would be to ignore the story.

Best regards,

Cunard Line

In the meantime a British Consortium presented Dubai with plans to bring the QE2 to London. Apparently the bid has been rejected by the owners, however, the campaign to bring her home to the UK has gathered momentum in form of a petition to the UK Government to support the efforts to save the QE2.

If you are a UK resident and wish to support the petition, you can do so by going to the e-petition website and completing the form. The e-petition will close on 07/04/2013 at 10:15 UK time.  Click here for the e-petition. Only UK residents can sign, however, any support to spread the word is highly welcome.  Note added 12 Jan 2013: The e-petition this post was originally referring to was taken down because it didn’t meet requirements apparently. I updated this post with the link to another e-petition.

For more information on the current situation of the QE2 in Dubai and the plans for bringing her to London, I recommend the following two sites:

The QE2 Story Forum: Click here for the most recent updates and discussion on QE2 London
Maritime Matters: QE2 in London 2013

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How time flies – it’s been 3 years since the QE2 arrived in Dubai. Read my post about her arrival in 2008 here…

After a period of much speculation about her fate, reports  of atrocious acts of cutting her in half, removing her iconic funnel or being loaned to Capetown for the World Soccer Games,  she has now settled into a waiting role while her owners are deliberating what to do with her.  Nakheel seem to be taking really good care of her, she appears well looked after. Check out the DVD ‘Sleeping Beauty’ on The QE2 Story website  – with photos and videos taken onboard in Dubai this year.

Here’s a shot from this morning when I passed Port Rashid – she looks grand and glorious as ever and ready to sail. If only!

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Another lonely year in Port Rashid. 

 

 The QE2 has been in Dubai for 2 years now. I have been lucky to witness her arrival in 2008 and see her close up on her anniversary last year. Her anniversary on November 27 coincides with the Dubai Rugby Sevens, the biggest sports event in Dubai which is usually in the same week. For a big Sevens fan like me, this event is a fixture in my calendar, and while there it is of course imperative that I reunite with my favourite liner.

I posted a video (embedded in the blog) and added some more photos to the Member’s Gallery.

To read full post and view video, click here…

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November 27, 2009, 10am, Dubai Cruise Terminal, Port Rashid:

It is the 1st  Anniversary of the QE2’s arrival in Dubai, and what a stark contrast it is to last year:  No welcome flotilla, no arrival celebrations, no champagne corks popping, no red carpets rolled out for the dignitaries anxiously awaiting her arrival, no media waiting to buzz the photos of her docking around the world, no curious locals hoping for a glimpse of the famous ocean liner that had been making front page headlines for the past weeks, no bagpipes playing, no cheering passengers standing on the decks and waving flags – nothing. Just the humming of the generators. The QE2 was scheduled to arrive at 6am on Nov 27th, 2009 but eventually she arrived ahead of schedule in the afternoon of the 26th so that the locals could arrange for a welcome flotilla to greet her into the port. The handover ceremony between Cunard and Nakheel took place on the ship in the early afternoon of Nov 27th.

The Dubai Cruise Terminal, where QE2 is docked,  is located in this part of Port Rashid.

I am standing in front of my beloved ocean liner, and I am not embarrassed to admit it, I have knots in my throat and tears in my eyes.  It is my first reunion with the QE2 since I saw her last year coming into the port, finishing her final voyage from Southampton to Dubai. Seeing the Queen in her full splendour is simply breathtaking.

 The QE2 is docked about 500 metres from the Dubai Cruise Terminal, access to this area is very restricted.

 

The flag of Vanuatu is flying and the stern shows Port Vila as port of registration.
  
 
I am holding my very own anniversary celebrations: Walking her full length from bow to stern and back, scrutinizing the ship for signs of neglect and taking as many photos as I can. I won’t be getting any closer.  I am very happy to report that the ship is looking stunning as ever and that she appears to be well cared for. Her exteriors are in excellent condition as far as I can see. In my mind I am replaying onboard scenes and wonderful moments aboard: The formal dinners, afternoon tea, pre-dinner drinks in the Chart Room, late nights in the Yacht Club, lazy hours on the sun deck and gentle strolls around the deck – and getting lost…. The gangway to one of the three open doors on Five Deck is decorated with a golden tub that holds a green plant which is causing me to smile: It’s a very nice gesture!
  

 One of the gangways is decorated with a plant – I think it is a nice touch. However, the security guards inside the ship make sure no one is ‘welcome aboard’.
 
While I am taking a peak inside I can hear the Queen whispering: ‘Come, come on board, cut my ropes lose and take me on a World Cruise. Next stop Hong Kong….’ Oh, I wished!!!  I touch her to give her the love of my friends before I was shooed away by the security guards: ‘No intruders please’. Intruders! There was a time I was a welcome guest enjoying formal dinners and ballroom dancing… 
 
I am calling a friend on the US West Coast who stayed awake all night to hear from me, and I describe the atmosphere, the location and most important, the ship: She’s alive!!! A set of engines in running, smoke is billowing from her funnel and the lights in the restaurants are switched on. Many window blinds are pulled down to protect the interior from the relentless sun. The blue chairs on the sun deck are neatly stacked. She is well looked after. We both almost start crying.   Not a soul outside. It is quiet, almost tranquil. No scenes of a bustling and hustling cruise terminal.
 
 
Smoke is billowing from the famous black and red funnel and many windows are covered to protect the interior from the merciless sun.
Someone forgot to remove the Cunard logo on the tender!
  
  
 
The lights are switched on in the restaurants and other public areas.
  
 
 
The blue deck chairs are neatly stacked on the sun deck.
  
  
  
The Cunard logo is long gone.
  
  
  
The entire ship looks scrubbed and clean. No Nakheel flag flying.
  
  
 
Take a bow…
  
 
 
The imposing superstructure
  
  
  
The Dubai Cruise Terminal area is deserted during the Eid holiday. The port is expecting a cruise ship today and one on the 29th.  The season has not started yet. Behind the QE2, approximately 500 metres away, the AIDA Diva from Germany arrived in the early morning hours. 
 

The AIDA Diva docked earlier in the morning. Cruise ships calling on Dubai are docked behind the QE2. Their web cams usually get an excellent view of the QE2’s stern and funnel.
 
Most passengers have already disembarked and were carted off to their next or final destination. A fence prevents them from veering into the secured area of the QE2. I wanted to find out if they were interested in the ship and what they thought about her being here.  While waiting to pass the next security level I can speak to various passengers,  neither of them know who the QE2 is or cannot be bothered. One gentlemen thinks she is already in Capetown, another couple wants to know where I am going and wishes me bon voyage on the QE2.  
 
The area around the QE2 is clean, tidy, no clutter lying around, and no equipment that indicates any activities. My two colleagues and I are the only visitors today to mark the 1st anniversary of her arrival. It feels like she is almost forgotten in Dubai.  She is certainly not forgotten in the books of  Dubai World who own Nakheel; but it is quite obvious she is no longer on the minds of the local people: None of whom I spoke to take any interest in the ship or admit they are not informed about her current situation. It’s exactly as I predicted in my post    Dubai – End of a Voyage’    a year ago: She will briefly make headlines but soon will end up on the last page of the news papers like an actress whose celebrity status dropped from A to C.  
 
We are spending as much time as possible in the area and make the most of it. There was a lot of red tape cutting required to get here. The QE2 area is a secured area; one can’t just walk or drive in to take photos. I owe big thanks to my colleagues in Dubai whose excellent connections with the Dubai Port Authorities and the Dubai Cruise Terminal Management enabled me to pass all pre-clearances in order to receive approval for access. DTCM provided us with two possible dates for a visit, the 27th or the 29th and I didn’t have to consider twice which date I wanted. It had to be the 27th, the anniversary date! The approval was given a couple of days before my visit, yet I have to pass 3 security levels:  First the call at gate security to get into the cruise terminal area, then the check in with port security to obtain a pass for which they withheld my passport, and only after the last hurdle, ship security is taken, I am free to walk dockside and take photos.  
My dear colleagues, thank you all for making this special day possible, you know who you are!!!  
 
As we are leaving the cruise terminal, I am catching a final glimpse of the QE2, bathing in the sun and wondering about her future fate.
  
 
Just shortly after we leave the terminal I receive an email from a friend with a link to an article in The Telegraph which announces the possibility of the QE2 being sold by Nakheel in an effort to pay off some of the mounting debt. I quickly grab some of the local newspapers: Khaleej Times, Gulf Post, 7 Days – they all talk about Dubai World’s request to suspend its debt payments for six months while it undergoes fundamental restructuring.  The group has an overall debt of $59 billion dollars, which comprises three-quarters of the Emirate’s total debt of $80 billion. The QE2 is considered a none-core asset like many other DP property investments and may be sold. What a royal tragedy: The high-profile “trophy asset’ has turned into a severe liability with an uncertain future…  
 
At the moment, I just wonder about potential buyers who are prepared to invest millions into an acquisition of the ocean liner. Who would want her? Probably many. Who can afford her? Probably only few. Whilst I am not a pessimist by nature, I have these images of Alang ‘beach’ in my mind –  a heart breaking thought.  
 
The signs of bankruptcy have been there for a while – now the wake up call has come! In my opinion, Nakheel was already feeling the results of the credit crunch by the time the QE2 arrived in Dubai last year. The Trump Tower on Jumeirah Palm had just been put on hold, a day after the arrival newspapers announced that Nakheel was going to make 500 employees redundant. Many of my friends lost their work. I didn’t believe at the time that Nakheel had the financial means to pursue the ambitious plans that leaked to the press before her arrival. Throughout the year the company played their cards close to the chest. Their policy to communicate as little as necessary about future plans resulted in a flurry of gossips and rumours which kept the ocean liner forums busy debating possible scenarios. In a nutshell: Speculations were rife and in abundance, newspapers were citing ‘from reliable sources close to the decision makers’ which later turned out to be hot air.  Remember those absurd plans to sail the ship back to Bremerhaven and have her cut up in 2 parts to insert an extension and tug her back to the UK? The plans to replace the red and black funnel with a glass penthouse which so infuriated the liner community? The online auctions where ship models of future designs were offered, stories of a possible investor in the UK who wanted to bring her back to Southampton? The recent announcement to transfer the QE2 to Cape Town as a floating hotel during the World Soccer Games 2010. This was possibly a last attempt to turn the idle ship into a money maker and to recoup some of the investment. Apart from the Cape Town move, most of the news was speculation. As of today, the future has become even more uncertain, if not even worse. One thing is for sure: The gossip kitchen will remain busy.   

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to see the ship one more time as I want to remember her: As the grandest and finest ocean liner in the world.

I’ve taken a lot more photos and posted them in the Cunard Queens Galleries . 

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Here is a short video taken by John Thorpe, MBE when he was aboard QM2 in Dubai and QE2 sounded her horn. It is great to hear her again but also heartbreaking.  I miss that sound!

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It was just a question of time that another trademark of the original QE2 was going to disappear:

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.  

Home Port Southampton

Home Port Southampton

Home Port Port Vilas

'Home port' Port Vila

 A spokesman for Nakheel said:

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! 

Map of Vanuatu

Map of Vanuatu: The geographic coordinates of Port Vila are 17°45′S 168°18′

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.

QE2 gleams with a new coat of paint  (Photo from Dubaiworldmedia site Aug 13, 2009)

QE2 geams with a new coat of paint. (Photo from Dubai World Media Aug 13, 2009)

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.

New Flag
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: 

Flag of Vanuatu

Flag of Vanuatu

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.

The www.marinetracker.com site gives a very good overview (and a great picture of ‘Hers Shipness’), click here. If you want to track her on the live map, make sure you enter the new call sign YJVW6.

Another shiptracker is http://www.sailwx.info/shiptrack/shiplocations.phtml.

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