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The Queen Mary Is In Such Bad Shape That It Could Sink

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(Photo by Rian Castillo via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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The Queen Mary, with its sheer size and stately appearance, may give off an air of invincibility. But, as with any vessel, it requires regular maintenance to keep it in working order.

A report now says that the ship has been woefully neglected, and that it has a long way to go before it will be fully rehabilitated. According to documents obtained by the Long Beach Press Telegram, the issues are plenty. Among the more pressing concerns is the ship's hull, which is so severely eroded that parts of the ship's interior could be susceptible to flooding. And in the case a flood does happen, the Queen Mary is ill-equipped to deal with the problem, as there are no watertight doors to seal off sections of the ship, nor a working system to pump out the water. This means that, yes, the report says the ship is in danger of sinking to the bottom. Another major issue deals with the exhibition space where events are held; researchers say that the pillar supports for a raised false floor are also severely eroded, and may lead to the collapse of the structure.

What makes everything even more dire is that a solution may be a far way off. Experts estimate that it would take about $235 million to $289 million to make all the required repairs on the Queen Mary. According to The Scotsman (more later about why we're citing a Scottish paper), repairs that are deemed "critical" make up about $23 million of the total. If the ball got rolling right now, it would still take five years to complete all the renovations.

The report is based on a survey of the ship conducted by naval architects and marine engineers.

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The City of Long Beach owns the Queen Mary, but leases it out to operators to manage the vessel and the 45 acres of land around it. As noted at Curbed LA, the city had gone into a lease agreement last year with investment firm Urban Commons. As part of the agreement, the city agreed to contribute $23 million to renovation projects. Urban Commons later announced plans to remodel the ship and develop a new "entertainment district" on the area surrounding it. The latter goal—of putting an entertainment and retail complex in the area—could cost around $250 million, reports the L.A. Times.

The Queen Mary came to the West Coast in 1967, after Long Beach had purchased the ship from the Cunard Steamship Co. for $3.45 million. Since its arrival it has been an expensive investment for the city. The Telegram notes that, by 1992, the city had invested about $100 million in the ship. The expenses have been so huge that it has scared off some of the past lease owners, even Walt Disney Co., which took over the lease in 1988. The company, upon realizing that it would take $27 million to fully repair the vessel, bailed just four years later in 1992.

The ship was built in Clydebank, Scotland in 1933. As such, the vessel has particular relevance to the Scottish. The Scotsman says that the ship is "an enduring icon of Scotland’s industrial prowess."

Likewise, the Scottish paper was able to cull a number of scathing remarks about the city's handling of the vessel. “With the ship’s maintenance, if the future mirrors the past, the results are inevitable. City administrators and leaseholders that benefit most from the ship’s profits seem to take her for granted,” Diane Rush, a former president of the Queen Mary Foundation, told the Scotsman.

Even Long Beach's former officials say that it may be too costly to keep the ship. “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,'" Doug Drummond, a former councilmember, told the Telegram.