Long Beach approves $5 million in critical repairs for historic ocean liner

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Queen Mary has become a hotel and tourist attraction in Long Beach (photo Allan E. Jordan)

Posted on January 30, 2022 at 1:30 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

The City of Long Beach has authorized $5 million in critical repairs to begin the process of remediating critical maintenance of the famed RMS queen mary. The beleaguered liner, which became a hotel and tourist attraction 50 years ago, suffers from years of deferred maintenance as the city seeks to fix critical issues so the ship can reopen to visitors possibly by the end of 2022. The ship closed in May 2020 citing the economic impact of the pandemic.

Recent reports have estimated that the queen mary, which entered service in 1936 and became the fastest ocean liner in the Atlantic, requires at least $23 million in short-term repairs on top of the $23 million the city committed in 2018 to the lessee. precedent for repairs. On January 27, 2022, the Long Beach City Council provided $2.5 million in its 2022 budget for construction to begin in February, along with an additional $2.5 million requested to be presented to council city ​​in the coming months.

During her career, she carried over 2 million passengers and served as a troopship in World War II.

the queen mary completed 1,001 Atlantic crossings covering nearly 3.8 million nautical miles before being retired by Cunard Line and sold to the City of Long Beach in 1967. The vessel then underwent the first of several major overhauls with removed most of its mechanical areas and replaced wiring, plumbing, and other critical systems. Over the years, the ship has passed through numerous tenants, including the Wrather Corporation, the Walt Disney Company, and various small businesses that went bankrupt in the early 2000s attempting to operate the aging ship.

In 2017, Long Beach commissioned the ship’s first comprehensive engineering survey in years, with the report detailing numerous critical issues and estimating costs for renovations and upgrades at up to $289 million. Among the problems described were corrosion of structural steel, an aging and inadequate bilge system, structural problems with bulkheads, leaks and safety hazards. A subsequent inspection in 2021 reported further deterioration, including the backup generator was not working and needed to be replaced, the boilers that provide heat and hot water needed to be replaced, problems with the water tanks and electrical problems, warning that the vessel could be in danger of flooding, sinking or capsizing if the problems are not resolved.

Exterior repairs included painting the iconic funnels and hull, but it requires significant structural maintenance (photo Allan E. Jordan)

“It is our responsibility to preserve queen mary and ensuring that this historic landmark is properly maintained, said Robert Garcia, Mayor of Long Beach. “Now that the city has complete oversight and control over the Queen, it is important that we make the necessary critical repairs.”

The $5 million authorized by city council will address two of the most pressing issues. The lifeboats, which are reported to be deteriorating in the davits, will be removed. Engineers have reported that the lifeboats put pressure on the side hull of the ship, leading to severe cracks in the support system. Two of the 24 lifeboats will be retained by the city for future preservation while 13 will be donated to museums and other non-profit organizations that may be interested in preserving them.

The second major project will be to install new permanent bilge pumps. The city also reports that additional upgrades to bulkheads, a backup generator, and a water intrusion warning system are coming.

The City of Long Beach has regained control of the queen mary for the first time in more than 40 years in June 2021 after filing an objection to the sale of the lease on the ship and surrounding lands in connection with the bankruptcy of its last operator, Urban Commons Queensway and Eagle Hospitality Trust. The city had entered into a 66-year lease with the company in 2016 with renovation commitments for the ship as well as the development of a 66-acre entertainment complex alongside the ship.

More than $20 million in projects have reportedly been identified for the ship, but in a scathing November 2021 report, the city auditor said only seven of 27 projects had been completed. The audit criticized the city’s agreement with Urban Commons, saying it did not address markups and management fees, did not include verification of subcontractors, lacked tenders for works and approved purchases beyond critical works.

The real estate trust created by Urban Commons reported more than $500 million in debt when it filed for bankruptcy in January 2021, including $41 million in repair projects for the queen mary as well as a long list of unpaid fees, taxes and gaps in the ship’s liability insurance coverage. In November 2021, the US Bankruptcy Court in Delaware labeled two of Urban Commons’ executives “fraudsters”, accusing them of “fraudulently obtaining PPP (Covid-19 aid) loans on behalf of the debtor without authorization and escaped with the product. ”

“Completing these critical repairs has taken time and effort that will greatly benefit the structural safety and historic preservation of the queen marysaid Long Beach First District Councilwoman Mary Zendejas. “With the city now overseeing control of the ship, I am confident this year will bring tremendous progress toward protecting this historic feature of our community.”

The City of Long Beach has restored outdoor lighting since regaining control in 2021 (Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau file photo)

Since he regained control of the queen mary, the City of Long Beach has already taken some steps, including repairing electrical systems, circuits and fixtures to restore lighting to the ship’s funnels. Experts point out, however, that the 81,000 gross ton liner which has 314 hotel rooms as well as restaurants, shops and its former lounges used for events, conventions and receptions, needs major upgrades. In July 2021, engineers presented the Long Beach City Council with three options which included investing $150-175 million for the next 25 years, preserving the ship for 100 years at an estimated cost of $200-500 million. dollars, or retirement and sinking or scrapping. the ship for $105-190 million.

While the ship has rarely profited from its commercial operations, elected officials say the city has benefited from the lease and the strong economic contribution to the region. City of Long Beach officials say the queen mary has become a city icon worthy of their investments.

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