UK investors make last-minute bid to buy iconic cruise liner QE2
The Queen Elizabeth 2, owned by Cunard at the time, in Norway. Trondheim Havn / Flickr
A fight over a retired ship is unusual, but the English investors’ plea seems to be based more in nostalgia than any real plans for using the ship in London.
UK investors aiming to bring the QE2 cruise liner back to London have not given up hope of making it part of a tourist attraction on the banks of The Thames.
Recent reports suggest the ship is to leave for Singapore in September but sources in the UK claim they are still in contact with Dubai officials in a bid to thrash out a last minute deal.
“We are still keeping the momentum going… in case the Singapore options doesn’t materialise… We have several investors interested,” a source close to the QE2 London project told Arabian Business.
The 46-year old cruise liner, which was bought by Dubai in 2007 for a reported US$100m, is to leave Dubai for Singapore in either August or September this year as part of preparations to convert it into a 500-room floating hotel.
However, British investors claim they are still in contact with the Dubai owners with an aim to bring the iconic ship to the UK capital: “Our last communication with Dubai was two weeks ago,” the source claimed.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who recently visited the UAE as part of a UK trade mission, has thrown his weight behind the project and was previously quoted as saying he was “keen to explore the possibility of mooring the QE2 in London.”
“The Mayor of London Boris Johnson is still supportive of the project and is keen for us to submit plans for the location,” the source said.
As evidence that the Far East may not be watertight, the source said the UK backers were “surprised the Singapore investors have decided to leave the ship in Dubai in the summer time in the extreme heat with the ship not having any ventilation.”
Despite the UK investors hopes, Singapore-based Oceanic Group, which is managing the project, told Arabian Business last month it would take a further three or four months to overhaul the ship’s engines and generators to allow the QE2 to make the journey to the Far East without assistance.
Daniel Chui, managing director of Oceanic Group, said the QE2 would then travel from Singapore to China where it would undergo further renovation and refurbishment.
Discussions over the liner’s new permanent home as a floating hotel were still ongoing, Chui said, with a decision yet to be made between Singapore and Hong Kong. Chui did not indicate when the vessel’s transformation would be complete.
Plans for the project were first announced in January 2013, with Dubai-based Drydocks World taking over management of the 45-year old vessel from Dubai World’s investment arm Istithmar. At the time it was stated that the ship’s new home would be an unspecified city in the Far East.
The QE2 has been moored at Dubai’s Port Rashid since October 2011.
The renovation plans will include a shopping mall, a QE2 Café offering meals similar to those served during cruises, three Michelin-starred restaurants, convention and meeting facilities and an onboard maritime museum displaying QE2 and Dubai memorabilia.
The plan is just one of several that have been floated for the QE2 since it arrived in the emirate following its purchase from UK operator Cunard in 2007.
Originally set to be refurbished as the central attraction in a maritime-themed development on Palm Jumeirah, this plan was scrapped in the wake of the financial crisis and the downturn in the Dubai property market.
In 2012, a new proposal was announced that would turn the ship into a 300-room hotel as part of a wider scheme to regenerate Port Rashid and turn it into a major tourism attraction.
There was speculation that Dubai hotelier Jumeirah Group was one of the companies interested in managing the QE2 project, but the plan never surfaced.
It was also rumoured that the ship would be sold for scrap to companies in either India or China.
The QE2 was retired in 2008 and made its last voyage to Dubai that year, when it joined trophy assets such as luxury New York retailer Barneys and Cirque du Soleil in Istithmar’s portfolio.