Long Beach considers SINKING historic Queen Mary cruise liner

Officials in Long Beach, California are considering paying $190 million to dismantle and sink the Queen Mary – the historic cruise liner that has been docked on the city’s shore since 1964. 

On Tuesday, members of the Long Beach City Council were presented with a range of options on what do with the once-majestic vessel, which now requires extensive repairs. 

In recent years, the Queen Mary has functioned as a tourist attraction complete with an on-board hotel and restaurants. However, the ship is currently closed to the public after the company that held its lease recently filed for bankruptcy. 

Long Beach officials now have to decide what to do with the 81,000 ton vessel. 

Officials in Long Beach, California are considering paying $190 million to dismantle and sink the Queen Mary - the historic cruise liner that has been docked on the city's shore since 1964. The vessel is pictured in the foreground of the above image, taken in April this year

Officials in Long Beach, California are considering paying $190 million to dismantle and sink the Queen Mary – the historic cruise liner that has been docked on the city’s shore since 1964. The vessel is pictured in the foreground of the above image, taken in April this year

In recent years, the Queen Mary has functioned as a tourist attraction complete with an on-board hotel and restaurants. However, the ship is currently closed to the public after the company that held its lease recently filed for bankruptcy

In recent years, the Queen Mary has functioned as a tourist attraction complete with an on-board hotel and restaurants. However, the ship is currently closed to the public after the company that held its lease recently filed for bankruptcy

The cruise liner, which took its maiden voyage in 1936, is seen arriving in New York City in 1940

The cruise liner, which took its maiden voyage in 1936, is seen arriving in New York City in 1940 

The Queen Mary ocean liner is seen leaving New York City after her last voyage in September 1967. She has been docked in Long Beach,  California since that time

The Queen Mary ocean liner is seen leaving New York City after her last voyage in September 1967. She has been docked in Long Beach,  California since that time 

The future of the historic Queen Mary

Option 1: Renovate and preserve the Queen Mary for 100 years 

It’s estimated that preserving the Queen Mary until 2120 could cost taxpayers between $200 million and $500 million. Extensive repairs and upgrades would need to take place on a dry dock and could take several years to complete. 

Option 2: Renovate and preserve the Queen Mary for 25 years

Experts say short-term preservation could cut immediate costs to the taxpayer. Marine engineering firm Moffatt & Nichol says taxpayers will fork out $150 million and $175 million to keep the boat viable as a tourist attraction until the late 2040s. 

Option 3: Dismantle and/or sink the boat

It is estimated that either sinking or dismantling the boat could cost upwards of $105 million because metal from the 81,000 ton vessel would have to be transported to a scrap facility or moved further out into the ocean 

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According to the Los Angeles Times, the Queen Mary ‘needs $23 million in immediate repairs to prevent it from potentially capsizing’, but costs to safeguard the ship into the future are far more expensive. 

Marine engineering firm Moffatt & Nichol told lawmakers Tuesday that it could cost between $200 million and $500 million to preserve the liner for the next 100 years. 

Experts would need to move the 87-year-old cruise ship to a dry dock to complete the massive renovation and upgrade. 

Work to preserve the vessel for 25 years could cost up to $175 million, the experts explained. 

Dismantling and sinking the Queen Mary was the third option that the experts proposed. 

They told the Long Beach City Council that choice would likely cost somewhere between $105 million to $190 million to do so, as the boat would need to be ‘transported to a scrap facility or a location in the ocean where it would become an artificial reef’. 

Members of the the Long Beach City Council did not make a decision about the Queen Mary’s future on Tuesday, but several officials expressed opposition to sinking the historic liner. 

Vice Mayor Rex Richardson said it would be ‘irresponsible’ to do so. 

Meanwhile, Council Member Suzie Price suggested the city consider having the ship become a national monument, meaning it could come under control of a federal agency. 

Prior to the COVID pandemic, the Queen Mary brought in $3.3 million in tax revenues to Long Beach due to its popularity as a tourist attraction. 

Several council members proposed ‘adding a theme park or a gambling venue to the ship’ to make it more viable as an attraction into the future. 

The Queen Mary was built in Scotland during the early 1930s, before its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City in 1936. 

The vessel boasted indoor swimming pools, beauty salons, libraries and children’s nurseries, and quickly became known as one of the world’s most lavish cruise liners. 

During World War II, the liner was converted into a troopship, and sailed to Sydney, Australia to carry soldiers back to the United Kingdom.  

Following the end of the War, the boat underwent a 10-month refurbishment before it resumed operations as a cruise liner. For more than two decades the vessel sailed the North Atlantic, travelling between the United Kingdom and the east coast of the United States. 

 Prince Edward, Wallis Simpson, Winston Churchill, Audrey Hepburn and Liz Taylor all traveled on board the historic boat before she was retired in 1967. 

The liner frequently sailed across the Atlantic between the United Kingdom and the United  States. She is pictured in New York City back in 1965

The liner frequently sailed across the Atlantic between the United Kingdom and the United  States. She is pictured in New York City back in 1965

The Queen Mary is seen during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City in 1936

The Queen Mary is seen during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City in 1936

The luxury dining room of the Queen Mary served a mess hall for American soldiers, while the vessel carries out her duties as a troopship during World War II

The luxury dining room of the Queen Mary served a mess hall for American soldiers, while the vessel carries out her duties as a troopship during World War II

Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson aboard the Queen Mary during the 1950s as they travelled from America to their home in France.

Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson aboard the Queen Mary during the 1950s as they travelled from America to their home in France.

Elizabeth Taylor is seen on board the Queen Mary in 1947

Audrey Hepburn seen on board the Queen Mary in 1951

Elizabeth Taylor is seen on board the Queen Mary in 1947; Audrey Hepburn seen on board the Queen Mary in 1951

THE QUEEN MARY: A VOYAGE THROUGH HISTORY

A 1936 poster for the Queen Mary

A 1936 poster for the Queen Mary

The construction of the Queen Mary represented the zenith of passenger ship-building for Cunard.

Plans began for a new record-breaking liner to replace the Mauretania as early as 1926.

However, it was not until 1930 that Cunard announced that a new 1,000ft, 81,000-ton liner was to be built by Glasgow’s John Brown & Co. Ltd.

The ship’s keel was laid down on January 31, 1931, and she was launched in 1934 by King George V’s Queen consort, Mary of Teck, in Clydebank.

The work on the ship was completed in March 1936 and it sailed out of the Clyde as far as Arran for preliminary trials. After sailing to Southampton to be painted, the Queen Mary was handed over to Cunard on May 11.

The ship’s propulsion machinery produced a massive 160,000 SHP (shaft horsepower) and gave it a speed of over 30 knots (34mph).

It made an inaugural cruise from Southampton on May 14 and then made its maiden voyage, on the Southampton-Cherbourg-New York route, on May 27. Despite expectations that the ship would try to break speed records on its first voyage, a thick fog destroyed any hope of this.

In August 1938, it set new records for both the eastbound and westbound transatlantic crossings. It made its last commercial voyage from Southampton on August 30, 1939, and then remained berthed at New York until the end of the year whilst it was decided what role the ship would play in the war.

On March 7, 1940, the newly completed Queen Elizabeth arrived to join the Queen Mary, Mauretania and Normandie at New York. On March 21, the Queen Mary left New York under orders to sail for Cape Town and Sydney. On arrival, work began converting the ship to a troopship.

The luxury furnishings were removed and tiers of bunks and hammocks were fitted. Although small calibre guns were fitted on the ship its main protection was to be its speed.

In 1941 it was fitted with heavier calibre guns and anti-aircraft cannons.

The Queen Mary’s future role was to be on the North Atlantic. However, one urgent trip carrying US troops to Sydney was the priority. By late July 1942, it had returned to New York. In the following months, it sailed to the Clyde and Suez and then returned to the USA with a complement of German POWs.

The Queen Mary's propulsion machinery produced a massive 160,000 SHP (shaft horsepower) and gave it a speed of over 30 knots

The Queen Mary’s propulsion machinery produced a massive 160,000 SHP (shaft horsepower) and gave it a speed of over 30 knots

On August 2, 1942, it began making fast eastbound voyages carrying between 10,000-15,000 US troops at a time.

On September 27, 1946, the Queen Mary was handed back to Cunard.

During its war service it had travelled over 600,000 miles and carried nearly 800,000 people. A ten-month refit was then embarked upon at Southampton.

Air conditioning was fitted and passenger accommodation was altered to house 711 first class, 707 cabin class and 577 tourist class passengers. It made its first sailing after this on July 31, 1947, from Southampton to New York.

It made its last transatlantic crossing on September 16, 1967.

There was considerable speculation regarding the future use of the ship, but this ended in July when Cunard decided to sell the liner to the town of Long Beach for £1,230,000.

The Queen Mary’s journey to Long Beach was turned into a cruise to recoup some of the voyage costs.

It left on October 31 and called at Lisbon, Las Palmas, Rio de Janeiro, Valparaiso, Callao, Balboa, Acapulco and finally at Long Beach.

It arrived at Long Beach on December 9 to begin its new role as a museum, hotel and conference centre.

The Queen Mary remains there today as a testament to the supreme achievement of the Atlantic ferry.

Michael Gallagher, Cunard historian

 

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