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Study: Corroded Queen Mary Needs $300M Fix

Friday, March 17, 2017

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Fans of one 20th century Cunard Line ocean liner may soon be singing “God Save the Queen,” after a report on the Queen Mary revealed extensive corrosion and damage that could cost nearly $300 million to fix.

The 81-year-old ship, which has been docked in Long Beach, California, as a hotel and tourist attraction for 50 years since its final voyage across the Atlantic, was subjected to a study in late 2015 by engineering firm Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, by the request of Long Beach officials.

The newly released study reportedly calls for more than $5 million in immediate repairs, and somewhere between $235 million and $289 million in work over the next five years, to prevent an internal collapse or other major incident.

‘Urgent’ Repairs

According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, the ship’s hull is badly corroded, and could be subject to flooding if a fix isn’t made. The ship’s bilge system reportedly doesn’t work, meaning water intrusion could be especially problematic, because the water might not be pumped back out easily. And corrosion to pillars holding up the floor of the event area means the floor is at risk of collapsing.

Queen Mary at Long Beach
David Jones, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach since 1967, holds a hotel, restaurants, bars, a museum and an event space for weddings and meetings.

The repairs called for reportedly include structural repairs to the floors, tank, hull and propeller, and priming, painting and rust-proofing the ship’s exterior, among many other jobs. A representative of Urban Commons, the company that leases the ship from Long Beach, told the Press-Telegram that the company is looking into a newly patented anticorrosion coating to address corrosion.

Urban Commons signed a new 66-year lease on the ship last year. The vessel holds a hotel, restaurants, bars, a museum and an event space for weddings and meetings.

While about $5.7 million in repairs is considered to be needed immediately, the Press-Telegram says about 75 percent of the total sum of needed repairs is called “urgent.”

‘The Point of No Return’

The newspaper quotes the report extensively, at times in alarming terms. It reportedly calls the ship’s conversion “poorly planned” and “poorly executed,” and says the ship is “approaching the point of no return.” The report even notes that the ship is in too poor condition to be towed elsewhere.

“The very severe structural steel corrosion has resulted in 1½-inch thin tank top being rusted away to nothing in some places,” the report says, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We predict at this rate of corrosion some internal collapse of the Queen Mary’s structure will occur within 10 years unless major action is taken soon.”

Scottish Response

The Queen Mary was built in the 1930s in Scotland, and made its maiden voyage in 1936. For a time in the late 1930s, it held the Blue Riband, an unofficial recognition of the fastest passenger ship crossing the Atlantic westbound, in terms of average speed.

In the 1960s, the Cunard line began to downsize as transatlantic passenger ships lost ground to air travel. After its final voyage in 1967, it sailed to Long Beach.

Queen Mary, 1960
John Beniston, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The ship (shown here in 1960) was built in the 1930s in Scotland, and made its maiden voyage in 1936.

Since the study surfaced, some Scottish politicians have reportedly petitioned U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to pressure the United States to ensure the Clydebank-built ship is saved, arguing that it is a historic asset that needs to be preserved.

“The ship, which once played host to presidents, prime ministers, and royalty, and transported nearly a million troops during the Second World War, has in recent years been used for pole dancing competitions, and a ‘haunted maze’ attraction [occupying] several decks,” the Scotsman newspaper wrote earlier this month.

Funding a Fix

Long Beach has pledged $23 million toward critical repairs to the ship, as part of a 66-year lease renewal agreement established with Urban Commons last fall. Urban Commons has reportedly promised $15 million toward updates to the interior. That still leaves millions—possibly hundreds of millions—unaccounted for.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the hotel brought in $11.6 million in 2014, and made another $3.4 million from events.

Some in Long Beach arguing that the vessel should simply be taken for a loss, and the money that would have gone into saving it should be invested elsewhere.

“If someone towed the Queen Mary away, I don’t think a lot fewer people would be going to Long Beach,” San Diego State University’s Carl Winston, a hospitality expert, told the Los Angeles Times.


Tagged categories: Corrosion; Corrosion protection; Government; Marine Coatings; Ships and vessels

Comment from john lienert, (3/17/2017, 8:39 AM)

tow it out 7 miles and sink it !

Comment from M. Halliwell, (3/17/2017, 10:53 AM)

If they are not going to be saved, then she and the United States should be sunk as artificial reefs or similar.

Comment from peter gibson, (3/17/2017, 12:26 PM)

If the Scottish politicians care so much; why don't they pay for it. Urban Commons should have checked it out before sining the lease. cannot milk an asset indefinatlly with repairs. Just sink the damn thing.

Comment from Ric Beard, (3/20/2017, 9:15 AM)

if they sink it, then where will they pole dance?

Comment from M. Halliwell, (3/20/2017, 11:22 AM)

I guess it all comes down to how much we value our history. Most of the concrete hulled ships commissioned in WW2 are now a breakwater at a log yard. The United States and QM sit in states of disrepair, getting to the point of becoming scrap or artificial reefs...yet other vessels (generally warships) are lovingly and carefully restored to a near commissioning state. If given the opportunity, the Scottish government might restore the QM...but you can be they'll want her back in Scotland. The US...I don't think there is the political motivation or national pride to save what was most likely the fastest ocean liner to have sailed in the heyday of passenger liners...hopefully they get some good historical information and schematics before she's broken up for her aluminum.

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