City Takes Over Queen Mary Attraction Fearing Capsizing And Flooding

The Queen Mary is one of the last of the great ocean liners. That’s because it isn’t an ocean liner anymore but a moored hotel and events center in Long Beach, California. Now, for the first time since its permanent home became Long Beach over 40 years ago, the city has taken control of the ship. But forget about a road trip to see it because the reasons are not good.

What happened to the Queen Mary hotel?

The ship/hotel has been closed to visitors since May 2020
The Queen Mary passenger liner, permanently docked and converted into a hotel, is seen in 1989 in Long Beach, California | George Rose/Getty Images)

The ocean liner is in almost irreparable shape from previous lessors not maintaining it. Since it became the ship’s owner the city has contracted companies to run day-to-day operations. But over the decades the operators have been unable to maintain control and make a profit. 

Now the latest company, Urban Commons, has filed bankruptcy. The city of Long Beach finds itself having to spend over $23 million in urgent repairs. Beyond that figure, there really remains hundreds of millions more needed. Former maintenance operators have been unable to make those repairs. The Long Beach Post says that Long Beach has been battling Urban Commons in court for years.

News in bankruptcy court has revealed the RMS Queen Mary faces the real danger of flooding and capsizing. Sailing the seven seas since 1937, the news is terrible for a city that depended on former operators. Unfortunately, they didn’t abide by their contracts and maintain the ship. Last Friday, Urban Commons, which signed a 66-year lease in 2016, surrendered all of its leases. 

Some issues are structural hull problems and the bilge system no longer works

The ship/hotel has been closed to visitors since May 2020
Scorpion, a former Soviet submarine that became a Los Angeles-area tourist attraction is expected to be sold. This is the submarine as seen next to the Queen Mary | Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

Long Beach has already issued $23 million in funds to Urban Commons to make repairs in 2017. It mostly did not complete any of the necessary repairs. Some of the issues are structural problems in the hull, the emergency generator is not functional, and the bilge system no longer works. That is the biggest concern because if the boat takes on water it could flood the entire ship and capsize. 

An inspector of the ship for over 30 years before his contract was terminated, Ed Pribonic told the LA Times, “The city was never able to keep up with the maintenance on that ship, regardless of who they leased it to. With the amount of money and the amount of time it would take—I can’t see who’s going to step up and take on that responsibility. We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars and years of work.”

“We’re taking all steps and preparing for all the potential scenarios,” said John Keisler, Director of Economic Development for the city of Long Beach, to KPCC radio. “And we’re working very hard with our legal team and also looking at the operations with our engineering team. We’re identifying which urgent repairs would need to be done immediately.”

The Queen Mary has been closed to visitors since May 2020

RMS Queen Mary | Getty
The Queen Mary, a historic ocean liner that was docked and turned into a tourist attraction 37 years ago, is seen where it still serves as a hotel and exhibit | David McNew/Getty Images

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The ship/hotel has been closed to visitors since May 2020 due to the coronavirus. Repairs are being accessed and will soon begin. The city of Long Beach released a statement saying, “The ship will remain closed to the public while critical repairs are completed, as it is faster and more cost-efficient to complete this work when there are no visitors present.”Long Beach will in the interim fund some of the emergency repairs through cruise ship fees, leases on and around the ship’s property, and Tidelands funds. 

Urban Commons had bigger plans beyond operating the ship. It planned a $250 million development called “Queen Mary Island.” By the end of 2019, it instead had racked up over $500 million in liabilities. The city has blocked any sale of Urban Commons assets until it pays for the needed repairs.