Posts Tagged ‘Call Sign GBTT’

One of the most famous call signs in maritime history ceased to exist today:

Call sign GBTT.

Following Cunard’s announcement to re-flag their fleet and re-register the three Queens in Bermuda, QUEEN ELIZABETH was the first to change registry and subsequently call sign and flag: The new call sign is ZCEF2. Eventually the port of registry on the stern will change from Southampton to Hamilton.

Call sign GBTT is firmly associated with Cunard’s longstanding tradition to register their ships in England. No less than 3 Cunard Queens carried the call sign. GBTT was originally used for RMS Queen Mary. After her withdrawal the call sign was transferred to QE2, and following the liner’s demise in 2008 it was ‘bestowed’ on Cunard’s most recent ship, Queen Elizabeth who only got to carry it for one year.

  • Queen Mary: 1936 – 1967
  • Queen Elizabeth 2: 1967 – 2009
  • Queen Elizabeth: 2010 – 2011 


Queen Elizabeth leaving Southampton 23 October 2011 – displaying Southampton on her stern. This will soon be replaced by Hamilton. Photo courtesy Christian Reay, Southampton

GBTT has been in Cunard history for 75 years. Today is marking the end of an era, as her 2 sister ships will follow suit over the next few weeks:  QUEEN VICTORIA on October 27, 2011 and QUEEN MARY 2 on December 1st, 2011.

You can track the ship on Vesseltracker.

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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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