Historic Sites

Queen Mary in urgent need of repairs to prevent sinking, experts warn

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The Queen Mary might be one of the world's most legendary seafaring vessels, but her days afloat may soon be over. 

Existing not only as a tourist hot spot along the coast in Long Beach, Calif., but also as a piece of global history, the legendary ocean liner is literally falling apart. After years of neglect, the ship may encounter an internal structural collapse and even sink to the bottom of the lagoon if repairs are not made soon, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

Naval architects and marine engineers have compiled a survey on the condition of the ship and warned that the vessel is “approaching the point of no return.”

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The ship, which was officially retired in 1967, is now a floating hotel with plenty of shops and restaurants, welcoming 1.3 million visitors annually.

Constructed in 1930 in Clydebank, Scotland, the Queen Mary is considered an important part of history not just in Long Beach but around the world. Celebrities such as Bob Hope and Elizabeth Taylor and royals such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and dignitary, Winston Churchill have all been carried on the ship. Nicknamed the Gray Ghost, the vessel carried approximately 765,000 Allied troops during World War ll.

“I don’t think people understand that the ship is not just beloved by some people here in Long Beach,” said Bob Maguglin, spokesman for the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There are tens of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world who have memories of or have somehow been touched by the Queen Mary’s history.”

But now, after years with proper care, the ship’s hull is corroded severely from the inside, including the ship’s engine room and could be prone to flooding. Experts say that if any major flooding were to occur, the ship would sink to the lagoon floor due to lack of steel watertight doors-- and no way to pump water out because of an inoperable bilge system. 

The exhibition space, where events are held could also collapse under the weight of a few people, as the pillar supports are corroded.

Of course, repairs to this extent wouldn't come cheaply-- but the question is, who will pay? The estimated total cost of ship repairs could range from $235 million to $289 million and up to five years to complete. Politicians in Scotland have called for an international fundraising campaign to restore the historic vessel and are urging Prime minister Theresa May to put pressure on the U.S. government to step in and help save the ship.

Long Beach officials say that the survey's findings are being discussed with Urban Commons, the ship’s current leaseholder. The officials and Urban Commons are committed to preserving the ship and wish to keep it open to the public, safely.

As of Monday, the city of Long Beach has approved just $23 million to address the ship’s most urgent repairs.

Last year, fire inspectors issued a list of 1,000 items to be corrected such as the nonworking sprinkler system. Those fixes are halfway completed.

Although many locals say it would be an outrage to let the ship fall into disrepair, others say the major investments needed are not worth it.

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“I was on the vessel about a month ago, and it’s all the more awful,” former councilman Doug Drummond told the Press-Telegram.

“I know the people who love the vessel have very strong feelings, and I respect that, but somewhere along the line there’s a moment in time that you say, ‘Public money and public policy demands that the ship be scrapped.’ ”

Former mayor Ernie Kell once called the ship “a tombstone in a cemetary no one wants to visit.”

The vessel has long been an expensive investment ever since its arrival on the West Coast in 1967. At the time, the city spent $3.45 million to save it. By 1992, $100 million had been put into the ship to keep it operational for tours. Operators also spent $64 million to convert the ship from a seafaring vessel to a floating hotel and tourist attraction.