QE2 Booted from World Cup Competition?

January 27, 2010
Plans to dock the QE2 in South Africa as a floating hotel during this summer's FIFA World Cup have been officially scuppered.

According to a report in The National, an Abu Dhabi-based English language paper, South Africa's Cape Town port authority has said it cannot accommodate the former Cunard icon for the length of time requested by its current owners, Istithmar World.

QE2 was sold in 2007 for $100 million to Istithmar World, the investment arm of state-run Dubai World. At the time, Dubai World's developer, Nakheel, outlined a grand plan to transform the iconic ship into a luxury floating hotel, boasting features from a West End-style theater to a glass penthouse complex where the iconic fire red funnel once stood. In the midst of the worldwide recession, Dubai World has suffered painful losses, leaving the company with billions of dollars of debt. QE2 has been languishing at Dubai's Port Rashid since arriving there in November 2008.

In an effort to generate income from the vessel, Nakheel applied to the South Africa port authority to dock to the ship at the V&A Waterfront for an 18 month stint as a floating hotel -- a period which would have included this summer's World Cup. The ship was to set up shop in South Africa in its current, still-unaltered, shape.

"It's the length of stay that was an issue," Sanjay Govan, port manager at South Africa's Transnet National Ports Authority, told The National. "They wanted to stay much longer than just the World Cup." According to Govan, the company encountered the same problem when it looked into berthing the ship in a private terminal. "You have to sacrifice a normal cargo-working berth for such an operation. You wouldn't do that for such a long time."

Two other cruise ships, Holland America's Noordam and Westerdam, will be in South Africa to catch the World Cup action. The ships have been chartered by Germany-based hospitality services provider One Ocean Club, and will dock at three South African ports -- Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban -- sailing between them during the month-long tournament.

As to QE2, it remains to be seen what the future holds.

Stay tuned.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor