The ancient Queen Mary might cost the city of Long Beach up to $175 million to preserve and maintain over the next 25 years, but recycling for scrap or sinking into the ocean could cost even more – up to $190 million.
These were among the ideas discussed by the Long Beach City Council on Tuesday, after the corporation that held the ship’s lease and the surrounding land filed for bankruptcy protection last month.
The council did not take any action during the study session to consider the future of the 87-year-old vessel. Still, most council members spoke in support of keeping the ship as it is — a floating hotel and tourist attraction — or turning it into a historical monument under federal authority.
The ancient ocean liner has been docked on the city’s waterfront since 1967 and has long been challenging to run. According to a 2017 analysis, $289 million in renovations and modifications are required to keep areas of the ship from leaking. The Queen Mary, according to documents filed recently in Bankruptcy Court, need $23 million in rapid repairs to avoid capsizing.
The council was given three options to consider: preserving the ship for the next 25 years for $150 million to $175 million; preserving the ship for the next 100 years for $200 million to $500 million, which would require moving it to a dry dock for repairs; or retiring and dismantling or sinking the ship for $105 million to $190 million.
According to a city report, most of the costs of retiring or sinking the ship would come from dismantling and moving it to a scrap yard or a spot in the water where it would become an artificial reef.
Moffatt & Nichol, a marine engineering firm engaged by the city to assess the ship’s repair needs, assessed the expenses. In the coming weeks, a full analysis of more immediate fixes is expected. According to a city report, teams are checking the ship’s hull, metal thickness, and fire suppression system.
Eagle Hospitality Trust, the firm that had the lease to operate the ship for the previous 11 years, filed for bankruptcy protection in January and agreed to transfer the lease arrangement.
Several council members expressed support for preserving the ship during the nearly two-hour meeting Tuesday, noting that it has not been a drain on taxpayer funds and has generated $3.3 million in tax revenues annually from its operations as a hotel, a venue for concerts and festivals, and a film location. Because of the epidemic, the ship has been closed for the past year.
Suzie Price, a council member, urged that the city explore making the ship a national monument under the supervision of the federal government. She requested that municipal authorities investigate that possibility and report back to the council with more information.
Vice Mayor Rex Richardson said that sinking the ship would be “irresponsible,” and that he would prefer a plan to keep the ship operational for the next 100 years. He proposed that the ship be expanded to include a theme park or a gambling venue.
“We have to be open to all opportunities,” he said.