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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

Happy Birthday to my favourite ocean liner!

QE2 on one of her rare visits in Hamburg

45 years ago, on Wednesday, September 20, 1967, QE2 was christened by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II at John Brown & Company, Clydebank, Scotland.

The BBC Website has a feature called ‘On this Day 1950 – 2005′ which covers major headlines during those 55 years. On September 20, 1967 the launch of the new Cunard ocean liner was front page news.  Click here for article and video clip.

Published a while ago on this blog, a documentary shown on STV Scotland abou t memories of those who attended the launch or were involved in the ship’s construction, click here to view.

45 years later, QE2 is leading a not so exciting retirement life: Since her arrival in Dubai on November 27, 2008 she’s been sitting idle in Port Rashid; however earlier this summer her Dubai owners finally announced plans to convert her into a hotel which hopefully will make her again accessible to old and new fans and inject new life into her. More details on the plans in the  Huffington Post Article July 2, 2012. I am looking forward to hear her whistle and step aboard again.

Today, July 2, 2012 QE2’s owner Ishtishmar World, DP World and the QE2 management today (July 2) announced that the QE2 will become a luxury hotel to be permantently berthed in Port Rashid, Dubai.

Click here to read official announcement…

From reactions throughout the liner community, this is obviously long awaited news that is met with great excitement. It’s good to hear that original plans have been scrapped for more sensible restoration work and hopefully the ship will be accessible to visitors soon.  I share the view of friend though: I believe it when I can book my first night!

A longer article appeared today, July 2, 2012  in Wall Street Journal:

DUBAI—Dubai said Monday it has decided the fate of the Queen Elizabeth 2, the 45-year-old ocean liner it bought at the height of the economic boom five years ago and which has been lying idle in the emirate’s Port Rashid ever since.

The ship’s owner Istithmar World, which reportedly considered selling the QE2 on several occasions to raise money during the financial crisis, announced plans to renovate and convert the ship into a 300-room hotel. The state-owned company said work will take 18 months, after which the QE2 floating hotel will be permanently docked in Dubai.

“The ship is in immaculate condition,” Istithmar World chairman Sultan bin Sulayem said at a news conference to announce the plans for the ship. “It’s going to enhance the tourism sector in Dubai.”

Istithmar refused to comment on how the project will be financed or how much it will cost. Mr. bin Sulayem would only say that funds “will be there” to pay for the conversion and for a broader redevelopment of Port Rashid, which is the destination for cruise ships docking in Dubai.

The plan follows years of speculation about the future of the QE2, which Istithmar bought in 2007 for $100 million from Cunard, a subsidiary of cruise giant Carnival Corp.  CCL +0.38% Istithmar originally intended to make it into a floating hotel stationed at a berth on the trunk of the Palm Jumeirah, one of Dubai’s palm-shaped artificial islands.

The financial crisis intervened, however, and Istithmar was reported numerous times to be considering a sale to raise cash. One reported plan that failed to materialize was moving it to South Africa to serve as a floating hotel for the 2010 World Cup. Last year, Istithmar was said to be considering a plan to make the QE2 into temporary housing for Japanese tsunami victims and then send it to Macau for conversion into a floating casino.

On Monday, Mr. bin Sulayem denied that the QE2 was ever offered for sale, although he said Istithmar had been approached with several proposals.

“We never offered it for sale,” he said. “There were people coming to us with numbers, [saying] let’s sell it, let’s do that.”

Istithmar is a subsidiary of Dubai World, the government-owned company which completed a $25 billion debt restructuring last year that included provisions for asset sales to pay off debt. The new plans for the QE2 “will not affect financial commitments to the banks,” Mr. bin Sulayem said.

Despite the scant details about the financing of the new hotel project, Mr. bin Sulayem expressed confidence that the QE2 hotel would be successful.

“It costs money for Istithmar to keep it sitting, so what we’re doing is reducing the cost for Istithmar and eventually Istithmar will make money out of it,” he said.

The ship’s historic character is to be preserved as it undergoes the conversion, Mr. bin Sulayem said. The 300 rooms are to be spruced up but not significantly changed; the renovation work principally involves fixing corroded and leaking pipes and connecting the boat to land-based water and electricity supplies.

“There were many grand ideas of renovating it in such a way that it was totally different from what it used to be, but we realized that a lot of people liked the ship as it was,” he said.

Mr. bin Sulayem dismissed suggestions that the corrosion, or the presence of asbestos in parts of the ship, would affect the hotel project. Consultants have been hired to certify the boat’s safety and ensure that any remaining asbestos is harmless, he said.

The initiative comes as Dubai enjoys a rebound in trade and tourism. Room occupancy rates at Dubai hotels averaged 74.4% last year, according to Dubai Statistics Center data, up from 70% in 2010.

The QE2 has been docked at Port Rashid since it arrived in Dubai. The 70,000-ton behemoth first floated in 1967 and was a cruise ship and ocean liner operated by former owner Cunard until its sale to Istithmar in 2007.

A rescue operation interrupted Queen Mary 2’s voyage from New York to Southampton ahead of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Southampton.

On the eve of the Jubilee Celebrations in Southampton, I was kind of glued to MarineTraffic to check for the ships progress, as I planned to get up and out early for their arrival at Hythe Marina. I certainly was surprised when the ship map indicated she stopped at Start Bay off Dartmoor. I quickly checked with my liner friends, last thing we wanted to happen was a technical failure preventing her to arrive together with her sister ships but when the map showed an RNLI boat close to Queen Mary 2 it became evident that a medical evacuation took place.

AIS indicated that an RNLI boat pulled up to QM2 –  Thanks Tee Adams for getting this shot when my internet went down.

It was the second medevac Torbay RNLI has carried out from Queen Mary 2. The first was on her Maiden Voyage in January 2004.

The facts gathered from the RNLI website:

Torbay lifeboat crew were launched to rendezvous with the passenger vessel Queen Mary 2 on the evening of 4 June as she was on her way to Southampton for a historic meeting of the three Queens (Queen Mary IIQueen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria) to mark the Diamond Jubilee.

The crew carried out a medical evacuation and the casualty was transferred from Queen Mary 2 to the all-weather lifeboat and was then met at Kingswear by an awaiting ambulance.
The launch instruct was given at 19:49 BST, launch time 20:01, ready for service time 22:33. All Weather Lifeboat (ALB) 2012 Shout #23. Coxswain Mark Criddle, Mechanic Simon James.

Despite the rescue op, Queen Mary 2 arrived in Southampton on time, leading the three Cunard ships into port.

The evacuation was filmed by RNLI crew member Nigel Millard, a great video showing the evacuation. I also found a video on YouTube by a passenger, so here we have 2 different views of the operation:

Slideshow with excellent photos by Nigel Millard:

A passenger on board Queen Mary 2 was in the perfect spot for the onboard view of the operation:

This morning, I learned of the passing of Capt. Robin Woodall, former Captain with Cunard Line and Master of the Queen Elizabeth 2. He died after long illness.

Capt. Woodall started his career with Cunard in 1960 and is best known as a Master of the Queen Elizabeth 2 in the 80s and 90s. Many passengers and crew members remember him as a much-liked and highly respected Master of his ships. He was an imposing figure with an inspirational personality – pure Cunard! I am sure you will join me in sending sincerest condolences and warmest wishes to his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with Richard, his son, and Kate, his daughter-in-law.

On a personal note, I am very grateful for his support of the Cunard Queens blog; when asked he didn’t hesitate to take the time to search his archive and write a post about the QE2 Bomb Scare in 1972. You can read his recollection of the event here.

In the previous months Capt. Woodall was campaigning for the Liverpool Daily Post ‘Get on Board’ cruise petition to  make Liverpool a turnaround port.  If you wish to support the petition, see  Daily Post’s special campaign mini-site here

Godspeed you,  Sir. May you rest in peace.

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LIVERPOOL DAILY POST, January 6, 2012

MERSEYSIDE’S most famous mariner, Capt Robin Woodall, is sounding the final siren call for readers to sign the Daily Post’s Get On Board cruise petition.

We want the Government to overturn EU restrictions on Liverpool Pier Head terminal which ban turnaround cruises (ie, starting and finishing) at the world famous landmark. The Daily Post’s Get On Board petition, already signed by more than 2,000 people and also backed by the Chancellor, George Osborne, MP, will be presented to the Government on Monday. It will be given in person at the Palace of Westminster to transport minister Mike Penning, MP, who is due to visit Merseyside soon. On his trip, Mr Penning will meet Liverpool City Council leader  Joe Anderson, who is a keen advocate for removing the turnaround ban.

Capt Woodall brought the Cunard flagship QE2 into Liverpool in 1990, to celebrate the company’s 150th anniversary.

I am backing the Daily Post’s Get On Board wholeheartedly, said Capt Woodall, of Hoylake.

It will bring shipping back to the Mersey in a way we have not seen for 40 years. Liverpool Cruise Terminal has proved that we can handle the biggest liners, like Queen Mary 2, on day visits.

The next logical step is to develop the port again as a major point of departure and return for cruises.

There is no point offering Langton Dock Terminal, as some cruise lines don’t want to go into the docks. Also, many cruise liners are too big to fit through Langton lock to reach that terminal.

This is why the new Cruise Terminal landing stage at Pier Head, the most famous place to get on a ship, must be permitted to handle turnarounds.

It is essential that we are allowed to develop again as the leading passenger port for northern England and Scotland.

Having cruise liners based in Liverpool will be good for Merseyside and the jobs it can bring.

These ships will need everything from replenishing stores to maintenance by Cammell Laird and a host of other engineering companies.

Capt Woodall started his seagoing career in Cunard cargo ships and switched to its passenger ships in 1960. He first served on RMS Sylvania, as junior third officer, on Liverpool –North America services.

It would be fantastic to see a Cunard liner leave Liverpool Pier Head once more on a transatlantic crossing. But that won’t happen unless this Daily Post campaign succeeds, which is why I’m giving it my fullest support, he said.

I added a new video to my library which I’d like to share: Queen Mary 2’s departure from Hamburg on May 8, 2011 around 18.30 hours.

She visited during the annual Hamburg Hafengeburtstag (Hamburg Port Anniversary) which always draws hundreds of thousands of visitors. Every year, the Hamburg Harbour is honoured with a big birthday party which lasts over 3 days. Big cruise ships, frigates and steamboats can be admired during the days of the Hafengeburtstag and Queen Mary 2 is always the biggest attraction.

Sail away weather was perfect:  Sunshine – blue sky and a light breeze – thousands of onlookers lined they shores to see the ‘Mighty Queen’ make her out of the harbour towards the sea.

It’s a professional video by C)neworkz  shot from a plane, thus offering a splendid bird’s eye view of Hamburg and Queen Mary 2. It’s not a view you often get to see.

I was among the spectators too, positioned with my own camera at the stern of the paddle steamer ‘Louisiana’ which is visible in the video. On occasions like this I prefer the paddle steamer to the little barges simply because of the elevated stern which gives a much better view of the QM2. Still, you feel like David looking up at Goliath…

This year, Hamburg will be celebrating from May 11-13, 2012 and Queen Mary 2 will be in port on Sunday, May 13. For more information in German go to this link, for information in English click here.

Captain Ian McNaught succeeds Rear Admiral Sir Jeremy de Halpert as Deptuy Master and Executive Chairman for Trinity House.

Congratulations to Captain McNaught – this is a great achievement and well deserved.

The complete announcement:

Captain Ian McNaughtCaptain Ian McNaught (pictured right) was sworn in as Deputy Master of the Corporation of Trinity House and Executive Chairman of the Lighthouse Authority at today’s Court meeting. The meeting was chaired by HRH The Princess Royal, Master of the Corporation of Trinity House.

Captain McNaught succeeds Rear Admiral Sir Jeremy de Halpert who has stood down after almost ten years service.

Captain McNaught has 40 years maritime experience, most recently serving as Master with Seabourn Cruises. He has been an employee of Cunard, owner of some of the most famous cruise liners in the world, since 1987 when he joined the QE2 as a Second Officer. He rapidly rose through the ranks and was Master of the luxury cruise ship Sea Goddess 1, and more recently held Command of the QE2 until the vessel was paid off in November 2008.

As Executive Chairman of the Lighthouse Authority, Captain McNaught will lead an organisation responsible for the safe navigation of some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Trinity House is also a pioneer of research into new technologies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the aids to navigation it provides. As Deputy Master of the Corporation of Trinity House he will be responsible for the activities of the UK’s largest endowed maritime charity.

Commenting on his appointment, Captain McNaught said, “having spent nearly 40 years at sea, my election as Deputy Master of Trinity House is the pinnacle of a successful career as a Master Mariner. It provides me with an opportunity to lead the principle maritime fraternity and institution in the country for the benefit of Maritime Britain, the shipping industry, and all the seagoing community. There is, I believe, no greater opportunity than this, to use all my maritime experience and expertise gathered during my career at sea”.

From their website: Trinity House are the General Lighthouse Authority (GLA) for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. Their remit is to provide Aids to Navigation to assist the safe passage of a huge variety of vessels through some of the busiest sea-lanes in the world. Trinity House was granted a Royal Charter by Henry VIII in 1514.  Trinity House is also a major maritime charity, their activities include welfare of mariners, education and training, and the promotion of safety at sea. It is also a Deep Sea Pilotage Authority.