THe revelation that the QE2 could be sold off for scrap has been met with anger in her home city of Southampton.
As previously reported, fter four years languishing alongside the docks in Dubai, ambitious plans to convert the former iconic Cunard vessel into an international tourist attraction and floating hotel seem to have sunk without trace, leaving the ship facing an ignominious end.
“If QE2 is sent to the scrapyard it would be an appalling act of vandalism,’’ said Terry Yarwood, a regular traveller on the ship and who once headed a group of enthusiasts who tried to keep the liner in Southampton.
“She served the country both in times of peace and war and is an important part of our nation’s heritage.’’ Even a last-minute bid by a British consortium which wanted to buy the ship and bring her back to London to be moored on the River Thames met with failure in the face of a Chinese offer, thought to be worth £20m, to reduce the once elegant liner to scrap.
Fears about her future grew when the skeleton crew, who had looked after QE2 since she arrived in the Middle East, were suddenly ordered to leave the vessel and replaced by a team of Chinese seamen.
The notoriously secretive Dubai owners of QE2 have made no official comment but reports originating in the oil-rich state suggest the ship is being prepared for her last voyage, a one-way trip to the breaker’s yard.
Southampton said an emotional final farewell to QE2 in November, 2008 when she set sail for the Middle East where the much-trumpeted project to transformher into a world-class tourist and convention centre turned into a disaster.
Initially plans called for her distinctive funnel to be removed and replaced by a towering, all-glass structure.
Decks were to be reshaped, and she would have become the dramatic centrepiece of a development designed to attract some of the richest people in the world.
However, as the global recession bit deep into Dubai’s economy, starting dates for the scheme repeatedly came and went amid assurances the plans had not been abandoned.
Even as recently as earlier this year a scaled down blueprint was drawn up to bring QE2 into service, together with the announcement she would be open for business in 18 months’ time.
Chris Fame, the maritime historian and author, said: “QE2 is the last ocean liner to have been built in Great Britain.
“She was built in Scotland at a time when all other passenger ships were being retired and against all odds went on to become a ship that was an ambassador for Britain around the world for close to 40 years.
“As the world’s most travelled ship, this unique icon of British engineering deserves to be saved and respectfully restored as a hotel, for future generations to enjoy.
“QE2 is far too significant to be scrapped. She served in the Falklands War, sailed 5.6 million nautical miles, carried 2.5 million passengers and is still to this day beloved all over the world.’’