Historic liner Queen Mary could sink due to lack of repairs

The ship is rusting and taking on water at Long Beach, California. Picture: David McNew/Getty Images
The ship is rusting and taking on water at Long Beach, California. Picture: David McNew/Getty Images
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Fresh fears have been raised for the future of one of Scotland’s most historic ocean liners, the RMS Queen Mary, after a marine engineering expert warned that the beleaguered ship is rusting and taking on water with urgent repair and maintenance work not being carried out.

The Clydebuilt ship, which once played host to politicians such as Winston Churchill and President John F Kennedy, has been retired from service for more than half a century.

Nowadays, she is a permanently moored tourist attraction in the United States, where a private real estate developer hopes she will become the centrepiece of a waterfront regeneration initiative.

But as revealed last year by Scotland on Sunday, the 84-year-old vessel faces a repair bill running into hundreds of millions of pounds after the first comprehensive inspection of the ship in a generation concluded that unless a catalogue of faults are addressed, she could be mothballed within a decade.

Now, a new marine inspection has warned that nine months on, a lack of money and manpower are hindering efforts to carry out vital repairs, with maintenance deadlines repeatedly missed.

Edward Pribonic, a marine engineering consultant, inspected the ship at its berth in the Californian city of Long Beach on 31 January.

He found that structural repairs to the bilge areas had stopped “some months ago” and they were now awash with standing water, with rust “widespread throughout”. Last year’s marine survey warned that unless the bilge system was repaired, the ship could sink to the lagoon floor.

Pribonic’s report found that despite the ship’s parlous state, the number of maintenance workers has been cut by nearly a third over the past two-and-a-half years.

Pribonic said: “It is illogical to expect that all the necessary maintenance of the property can be accomplished with that staff size. Rather, it is clear that maintenance will be deferred at a greater rate and the condition of the property will continue to decline.”

He added that “the engineering department is understaffed for its intended workload, and the shortage of manpower has significantly worsened in the past year”.

A Los Angeles real estate firm, Urban Commons, has signed a deal with authorities in Long Beach to become the ship’s leaseholder until 2082.

Bill Cwiklo, a former curator of the ship, said: “Are Urban Commons adequately capitalised to handle this project which requires far more than the emergency structural repairs?

“A bootstrap operation based on the revenues of the current ship is troublesome.”

Urban Commons did not respond to Scotland on Sunday’s enquiries.