Dubai cans 160 events as it decides QE2's fate

Despite UK talks, an Indian scrap yard seems the likely outcome

Dubai was originally going to relaunch the iconic QE2 cruise liner as a 300-room luxury floating hotel.
Dubai was originally going to relaunch the iconic QE2 cruise liner as a 300-room luxury floating hotel.

Dubai has cancelled plans to host more than 160 events aboard the QE2 - the iconic cruise liner it bought for $100m in 2007 and which is currently moored at Port Rashid - as the emirate plans how to dispose of the asset, Arabian Business has learned.

A scrapyard in India is now thought to be the QE2’s most likely final destination.

Owned by Istithmar, the investment arm of state-owned Dubai World, since June 2007, various plans have been pitched over the last five years to turn the 45 year-old cruise liner into a luxury floating hotel.

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After many failed attempts, the QE2’s relaunch began in late 2011 when the ship hosted a New Year’s Eve party with over a 1,000 guests, fireworks and music.

“Dubai was going to relaunch the QE2 and we did a marketing campaign that went out to the world… I reached out to everyone I knew,” said James Magee, co-founder of Dubai-based Global Event Management who organised the 2011 party and was asked to launch the ship as a global venue for events.

“I went to the AEO [Association of Events Organisers] and all the big congresses and associations and said the QE2 is back in action - come and play.

“It was a huge success. We had everything from weddings to billionaires in India and Russia, through to gala dinners and product launches and after parties,” Magee added, before reporting that the plans began to change towards the end of 2012.

“The deadlines started happening about four or five months ago. We planned most of our events to take place in the final quarter of 2012… The saddest thing is we had about 160 events confirmed,” he claimed.

Magee said the ship became involved in what he described as “the most ludicrous battle” between various Dubai entities over how best to take advantage of the ship and finance the $1m monthly repair and maintenance bills needed to make it operational.

“The business plan we had more than paid for the maintenance and upkeep of the ship and it was probably going to contribute probably somewhere in the region of about $20 million a year plus,” Magee said.

In parallel with Magee’s promotional activities, Dubai began talks with UK-based investors to bring the QE2 back to London and establish it as a floating hotel on the banks of the river Thames near the O2 Arena.

While talks had stalled, a spokesperson for the UK investors said they were still optimistic they can secure a deal with Dubai World after nearly fourteen months of negotiations. However, these would now appear to be fruitless as a highly placed Dubai World source has told Arabian

Business that local authorities are unlikely to send it back to the UK and favour the option of selling it as scrap and earning a quick return on their $150m investment.

While unconfirmed rumours claimed the captain and his staff left the ship on Friday and Asian inspectors had boarded the ship, Arabian Business has been told a scrapyard in India is currently seen as the most likely final destination for the ship, rather than China, as was widely reported.

Launched by Queen Elizabeth II on September 1967, the QE2 is the longest-serving ship in owner Cunard’s nearly 200 year history, has undertaken 25 world cruises, has crossed the Atlantic more than 800 times and has carried more than 2.5 million passengers.

A UK-based spokesperson for former owners Cunard said the fate of the QE2 was “a matter for Dubai and it's not appropriate for Cunard to comment on this sort of story.” Similarly, a formal statement from Dubai World said the company had “no comment” to make on the rumours and speculation related to the QE2’s current status.

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