The QE2 will not be saved from languishing in Dubai and returned to its birthplace on the Clyde, campaigners have conceded.
The Scottish government was working with Glasgow councils to repatriate the historic liner after it was said to be lying in a “filthy, forlorn and neglected” state in a dock in the Middle East country, having been sold to the UAE government conglomerate Dubai World for £64million in 2008.
But the Queen Elizabeth 2, which was built in the 1960s in Clydebank, just outside of Glasgow, now looks set to remain in Mina Rashid, Dubai.
“It is becoming clear that bringing the QE2 back to Scotland, which was always an ambitious proposition, is highly unlikely to happen,” said Aubrey Fawcett, chair of the working group and chief executive of urban regeneration company Riverside Inverclyde.
«There is a new plan for QE2, I cannot say what it is yet, but I can tell you that these reports that she is to be scrapped are absolutely untrue»
Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem
Mr Fawcett said the group had written to the owners seeking clarity on the state of the ship and whether she is for sale but had no response.
Photo: Louis De Sousa
“Consequently, we must conclude that it is highly unlikely that Scotland features in the future plans for the vessel,” he added.
The future of the ship has been unclear for years, with few plans announced from Dubai. However, after rumours last year that the QE2 was destined to be scrapped, chairman of DP World, part of Dubai World, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, revealed to a cruise website in November that such rumours were “absolutely untrue” and that a “new plan” was in place.
“There is a new plan for QE2, I cannot say what it is yet, but I can tell you that these reports that she is to be scrapped are absolutely untrue. QE2 will not be scrapped,” he told Cruise Arabia Online.
The QE2 before its launch in Clydebank, Scotland, in 1967 Photo: Getty
Cunard’s once-flagship has been the subject of a number of mooted proposals to save it, including a heavily publicised plan to convert it into a floating hotel in Asia, but none have stuck. There was also the chance it might be turned into a hotel on the Thames.
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Its engine was turned off in 2013 and the ship has since suffered from mould thanks to Dubai’s hot, humid conditions. Rob Lightbody, a member of The QE2 Story, told Telegraph Travel last year that “she’s filthy” and wrote in a report online that she “looks forlorn and neglected”. He said there was no chance of her being made seaworthy.
John Chillingworth, who worked on the ship for 20 years and is a former Cunard chief engineer, said he was sceptical of Dubai’s plans.
“They couldn’t even come up with what their proposal is for the ship,” he said.
“This is just another resurrection of his [the Sultan’s] attempts to keep control of the ship. We believe their [Dubai World’s] thoughts are to have her as a budget hotel in Dubai.”
Mr Chillingworth estimated that it could cost £50million to refurbish the liner to be used as a hotel.
The sad demise of an historic ship that has links with a number of cities in the UK, including Southampton and Liverpool, was the driving force behind Scotland’s plans to return her to Clydebank.
Mr Fawcett said the working group was heartened to hear that the QE2 is not to be scrapped.
“While it is disappointing that those plans don’t include the option of bringing her back home to the Clyde where she was built,” he said, “we can take heart that we have shone a spotlight onto the vessel and her current condition.”
There is no reference to the QE2 on the websites of DP World, Drydocks World or Dubai World, and Telegraph Travel has not received a response to a request for comment from DP World.