Fears for Queen Mary as repair money runs out

The 77,000-ton Queen Mary has been a permanently moored attraction in the city of Long Beach since 1967, but is in urgent need of costly repairs. Photograph: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
The 77,000-ton Queen Mary has been a permanently moored attraction in the city of Long Beach since 1967, but is in urgent need of costly repairs. Photograph: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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Fresh concerns have been raised for the future of one of Scotland’s most historic ocean liners after authorities in California exhausted a eight-figure budget set aside for urgent repair work.

Marine experts have warned that the RMS Queen Mary could be mothballed in a matter of years unless hundreds of millions of pounds is spent to bring it up to standard.

An initial £18 million tranche was earmarked for critical work on the former Cunard liner, but it has run out after costs to overhaul fire safety systems spiralled.

It means that less than a third of the urgent repair projects identified by experts have been completed, with no further financing available until 2027.

The long-term delay to the repair work further imperils the Clyde-built vessel, which in its heyday hosted the likes of Winston Churchill and US President John F Kennedy. The 77,000-ton ship has been a permanently moored attraction in the city of Long Beach since 1967, but various private leaseholders, including Disney, have been thwarted in their attempts to transform its fortunes.

Last March, Scotland on Sunday revealed the first comprehensive inspection of the liner in a generation identified “urgent” work which will cost up to £235m.

Around a tenth of the bill was designated for “critical” work, with no fewer than 27 separate projects identified. As work began, officials in Long Beach were forced to address “critical safety and structural concerns” and divert money elsewhere.

They predicted £155,000 would be required to bring outdated sprinkler systems up to scratch, but their state of disrepair caused the bill to soar to £4.1m. Similarly, the original estimate for repairs to the 84-year-old Queen Mary’s roofing and rotting and leaking decks was cited as £1.7m, but cost £4.6m.

As a result, the £18m will be spent in full by the end of the year, with work yet to start on ten of the projects, and a further 11 classed as “partially complete”.

Urban Commons , a Los Angeles-based real estate firm which holds the lease on the Queen Mary until 2082, has agreed to foot the bill for future repairs, but its funding model is based on using revenues from a mixed development surrounding the ship, an initiative which has yet to receive planning permission.

The precarious financial status of the repair programme was laid bare at a special meeting of the City of Long Beach council.

John Keisler, director of economic and property development at the council, said: “Starting in 2027 is when we would have available revenue to reinitiate the list of projects, unless we’re able to generate more revenue in the interim.

Laura Doud, the Long Beach city auditor, said: “A couple of years ago, 27 projects were identified as critical and urgent, and we know a lot of work has been done related to that.

“But ten projects are unfunded at this time, and I have a concern that if they were identified as critical or urgent two years ago, we want to make sure the city isn’t held liable for something it’s not taking care of.”