QE II for Kai Tak?
Anna Healy Fenton
The buyer and destination of the historic Queen Elizabeth II passenger liner is currently one of the best kept secrets in shipping. Rumours abound, ranging from it being bought to go to China to be scrapped – but then there was a story that a Russian Aircraft carrier would suffer the same fate and nothing came of that.
There’s also a rumour gathering traction that it will be taken to London and berthed permanently as a luxury floating hotel, next the O2 arena. All that seems to be sure is that it’s a “mystery Chinese buyer,” says my normally reliable shipping mole. Many people hope it will come to Hong Kong, and be berthed at Kai Tak’s new cruise terminal. The beautiful liner would be a stunning addition to the Hong Kong skyline and it can only be hoped that that story is true.
The QEII's fate has been much discussed since its arrival in Dubai in November 2008. Since launch in 1969, it has clocked up more than 26 round-the-world trips.
Having now spent more than four years sitting idle in a Dubai port, once again the vessel is in the headlines and seemingly bound for the high seas. This is part of a deal that would see it converted to a luxury hotel in Asia; this much has been confirmed by “officials”, recent newspaper reports said.
The precise destination of the QE2 was not revealed, but a map was published plotting its planned voyage ending up in China, spawning speculation that it was either Hong Kong or Shanghai.
"We promise to take good care of her," said Daniel Chui, managing director of the Oceanic Group, a Singapore-based maritime firm leading the renovation of the ship into a 500-room hotel in newspaper reports.
The QE2 has had a chequered history in recent years, having been docked in Dubai since being bought by a state investment company Istithmar World for US$100 million in 2007, during Dubai’s boom.
In July, plans were announced to keep the vessel there as a hotel and seafaring centre. This became being basically left to rust in peace as Dubai's economic rebound proved patchy. The liner’s fate took a backseat as officials instead poured millions into new entertainment and theme parks and a shopping centre to outbling Dubai Mall, now the world's largest and tackiest..
The China move is also seen as an indicator of the mainland’s fast-growing tourism sector, that already includes numerous cheesy themed resorts, such as a faux Swiss alpine village.
Before sailing east, the QE2 needs three months worth of seaworthiness checks in Dubai, said Khamis Juma Buamin of shipyard operator Drydocks World.
Inside the liner is in top condition, after meticulous maintenance since its last voyage in late 2008, and Dubai will allegedly retain ownership after its conversion to a hotel. At least that’s what’s been published. But now we have the mystery Chinese buyer. Watch this space. Smart money’s on a berth in Kai Tak.