THE owners of Southampton’s former liner Queen Elizabeth 2 are remaining tight-lipped over fears that the world-famous Cunarder could eventually be cut up for scrap.

The current economic downturn is so serious that it has hit even oil-rich Dubai, where the liner, pictured, is now awaiting conversion into a floating hotel.

QE2's final farewell

Sources close to Dubai-owned Nakheel, which bought QE2 for £50m, have indicated that the current world financial crisis and reduced numbers of visitors may have seriously altered or postponed the plans for the conversion of the former liner.

According to shipping expert Martin Cox, formerly of Chandler’s Ford, who now lives in Los Angeles, Nakheel is considering opening the liner to the public unchanged and just as QE2 looked when she left Southampton for the last time in November 2008.

“Other options would include selling the ship for scrap, although not until public interest in the project has diminished,’’ said Mr Cox.

News of the deepening gloom surrounding the future of QE2, once the most famous liner in the world, was seized on as a possible opportunity by the Southampton consortium which, at one time, wanted to buy the ship so that it could remain in the city.

A spokesman said that they were keeping a close eye on developments.

Although Nakheel has yet to officially reveal any details of QE2’s transformation, it is known that the ship’s iconic funnel is destined to be removed and replaced by a glass structure containing luxury penthouse suites.

A spokesman for Nakheel was unavailable for comment.