FEARS have been raised about the fate of the QE2, the most famous Clyde-built ship, which has been languishing in a Dubai dock since being retired six years ago.
Delays to plans to sail the former Cunard luxury liner to China to be converted into a hotel have triggered alarm among maritime experts.
Owner QE2 Holdings announced in October last year it would be refurbished into a “five-start heritage hotel”, taking the ship “into the next chapter of its illustrious history”.
The firm said the ship – built at the John Brown yard and launched in 1967 – would be moved to the China Ocean Shipping Company’s yard in Zhoushan, where “it will receive a thorough revitalisation and makeover for completion by 2015.”
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However, pictures published on the Arabian Business website showed the QE2 still docked in Dubai, having last visited Scotland in 2008 before being sold for £65 million. It said: “Many fans, passengers and former employees of the ship have contacted Arabian Business to express disapproval at its current state, with one photo showing staff members roasting a pig during a BBQ on its outside decks.”
The upgrade is to involve converting 990 staterooms to 400 suites, with the ballroom, seven restaurants, ten lounges, cinema and museum also being refitted.
QE2 Holdings president and chief executive Daniel Chui said: “The goal is to preserve the soul of the QE2 – many of the original furnishings and much of the décor will be incorporated – while creating a modern luxury hotel.”
However, George O’Hara, author of 100 Years of Shipping on the River Clyde, said: “It is a sad story. The ignominy surrounding it is nothing short of disgraceful.”
Writing in the book, published this month, he said: “Alas, this iconic passenger liner was just sold off to the highest bidder in the Middle East for consequential conversion and future profit. What an opportunity was lost to Great Britain by obviating the retention of this magnificent passenger liner in either London or near Glasgow, in a role of major tourist attraction similar to that of her big sister Queen Mary at Long Beach, California.”
A cruise ship expert told The Scotsman he doubted whether the hotel plans would succeed.
He said: “The QE2 was an iconic liner for her time but that time is past. The idea of a hotel ship probably would not work.”
No-one from Drydocks World, a partner of QE2 Holdings where the ship is based, was available for comment yesterday.
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