City to start work on ‘critical repairs’ to Queen Mary in February

Long-awaited repairs to the Queen Mary will start in February, city officials announced Thursday. The repairs, estimated to cost $5 million, will include removing deteriorated lifeboats and installing new bilge pumps.

These and other repairs are the “result of decades of deferred maintenance by former operators of the ship and are critical for its preservation,”  according to a city news release.

“It is our responsibility to preserve the Queen Mary and ensure this historic landmark is properly cared for,” said Mayor Robert Garcia in the news release. “Now that the city has full oversight and control of the Queen, it’s important we make the critical repairs needed.”

Removal of the Queen Mary’s 22 lifeboats is one of the most critical repairs needed for the ship, according to the city. Because the lifeboats are currently posing a threat to the vessel’s structural integrity, the city contracted with Exbon Development, Inc. to remove all of the lifeboats, though the city will retain two for future preservation.

Another 13 of the lifeboats will be stored while city officials determine if museums or other qualified nonprofit organizations wish to acquire one, according to the city.

One of 22 corroded lifeboats suspended on the Queen Mary. Photo by Kelly Puente

A separate repair contract involves the installation of new bilge pumps to discharge water intrusion in an emergency, according to the city. Future repairs will include stabilizing bulkheads, installing an emergency generator and improving the water intrusion warning system, according to the city’s news release.

The City Council approved the first $2.5 million in repairs, using Tidelands Funds, as part of its Fiscal Year 2022 budget, according to the city. An additional funding request will be sent to the City Council “in the coming months,” according to the city’s news release.

The State Lands Commission gave the city permission to use Tidelands Funds for Queen Mary repairs in December, according to city officials.

The city took over the Queen Mary in the summer of 2021 following the bankruptcy of leaseholder Urban Commons. Officials estimate the ship could ultimately need $300 million in repair costs to remain viable.

City officials have known of the need to replace the Queen Mary’s rotting lifeboats and install new pumps and do other repairs since at least 2019, when they told then-leaseholder Urban Commons that it had failed to carry out those and other much-needed repairs to the aging ship.

In late 2021, City Auditor Laura Doud also reported that the city had previously failed to properly oversee $23 million in critical repairs for the Queen Mary, leading to excessive subcontractor markups, unnecessary projects and overpayment for some work.

“We know the City paid more than necessary for some of the projects due in part to the excessive markups and management fees,” Doud said in a statement. “We do know that only seven of the 27 repair projects were completed and that a lack of sufficient management oversight contributed to these problems.”

The Queen Mary has been closed to the public since the start of the pandemic, but city officials said they anticipate reopening the ship later this year.

‘A betrayal you can’t even put into words’

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Anthony Pignataro is an investigative reporter and editor for the Long Beach Post. He has close to three decades of experience in journalism leading numerous investigations and long-form journalism projects for the OC Weekly and other publications. He joined the Post in May 2021.
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