Reported sale of 'QE2' to ship-breakers sad news

In this column last Monday I mentioned an American cargo ship that later fulfilled a number of roles.

As Franca C. it was the first vessel used exclusively for cruising by the Costa interests, and in April, 1989, it visited Dunedin as Doulos. Now as Doulos Phos it is in Singapore for a planned preservation programme. Now that is really heartening news for a vessel that was launched more than 98 years ago.

So while the future prospects for this veteran could be interesting, I was saddened by news from two overseas sources received last Monday. Both reported on the sale of the iconic Queen Elizabeth 2 to Chinese ship-breakers, although Cunard Lines has since described the reports as speculation.

This move follows the failure of a last-minute bid to bring the famous Cunarder back to Britain for use as a five-star floating hotel in London. A Chinese crew arrived at the vessel on December 21, to replace a crew of 40 which has been maintaining the vessel since it arrived at Port Rashid.

The reported sale price for scrap is quoted at 20 million ($NZ39.5 million). Earlier in the month it was revealed that investors in the QE2 London consortium presented Dubai with a similar offer. They were also prepared to spend three times this amount on bringing the ship back to Britain for preservation.

When the liner was sold to Istithmar, part of the state-controlled Dubai World, Istithmar agreed to not sell the ship for at least 10 years. However, a source close to Dubai World believed a contract modification could be agreed thus allowing it to be sold for scrap.

Like Doulos, QE2 was forced into retirement from ocean-going, commercial service in 2009 because it would not comply with more stringent Solas (Safety of Life at Sea) regulations that became effective from January 1, 2010.

Because of these pending changes the former flagship of the fleet was sold to Dubai on November 27, 2008. And on November 11, 2009, QE2 left Southampton for the last time, on a cruise through the Mediterranean and on to Dubai, where it arrived 15 days later.

Original plans for the ship to be berthed and become a tourist attraction at the Palm Jumeirah development never eventuated. Instead the ship has been

berthed and maintained at Port Rashid, with monthly running costs of 650,000. After arriving there the port of registry was transferred from Southampton to Port Vila (Vanuatu).

The ship goes down in history as being the last notable transatlantic passenger liner to be built in the United Kingdom. It also holds the record of being the longest-serving unit of the Cunard Lines fleet, which it served for more than 40 years.

The liner was also the last of a long line of notable Cunarders built by the Clydebank yard of John Brown and Co Ltd from 1900. But the links with Clydebank go back further before the Browns took over what was the James and George Thomson yard. Under their ownership 29 vessels were built between 1855 and 1881, for Cunard.

Laid at Yard No 736 on July 5, 1965, the vessel was launched by Queen Elizabeth on October 20, 1967. But it was not until June 2, 1969, that the new ship finally began its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

The vessel was powered by four steam turbines geared to two shafts. Total output of 110,000shp gave a speed of 28.5 knots. But after undergoing sea trials on November 26, 1968, problems were encountered with the turbines and

repairs had to be carried out and tested. This work delayed the delivery of the vessel until April 1969, by what was then the Clydebank Division of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders.

In 1986-87, QE2 was converted to diesel-electric propulsion.

As a change from North Atlantic commitments, this notable ship found employment in worldwide cruising. And on two of these the liner visited Port Chalmers - on February 4, 1992, and February 9, 2002. Arguably the finest-looking passenger ship seen here, at 70,327gt it was our largest visitor, until

December 2003, and at 293.53m our longest, until November 2008.

A happy new year to all readers.

 

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