Harbor Commission votes to assess Queen Mary ahead of potential transfer from the city

The Port of Long Beach is moving forward with its own assessments of the dilapidated Queen Mary ahead of the ship’s potential transfer from the city to the harbor department, a move that could make the port responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in upkeep and repairs on the ocean liner.

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to approve two contracts—and amend a third—for an extensive assessment of the historic ship. The assessment project is a means for the port to know exactly what it would be taking on if the ship is transferred.

Previous assessments have estimated repairs to the ship could cost upward of nearly $300 million. City officials have said the port is better equipped to handle and pay for repairs, as well as develop the surrounding land, due to its experience with waterfront capital improvement projects.

The city has owned the ship since it arrived in the 1960s but until recently has leased it to operators, which were responsible for repairs and upkeep. The most recent operator, Urban Commons, filed for bankruptcy last year.

Lloyd’s Register Americas Advisory Services (LR) and ABL USA were awarded contracts for $127,795 and $143,110, respectively, for the ship assessments. NRC Environmental Services had its on-call hazardous waste contract amended for an additional $2.4 million. With a $300,000 project contingency, the total project will cost just under $3 million.

Sam Joumblat, managing director of finance for the port, said the reports will take up to a year to be completed. Additionally, the city will pay $1 million toward the project with another $500,000 being considered to be paid out of revenue generated by the ship.

Port officials declined to comment further on the assessment or the potential transfer of the ship into its care “given that it’s a pending matter before the commission.”

LR will perform historic document review, onboard inspections and strength assessment. ABL, meanwhile, will provide naval architecture services, including stability modeling, calculations for longitudinal strength, ballast and tank inspection planning, and engineering support.

As for the $2.4 million increase in NRC’s hazardous waste contract, the money is necessary because ballast and fuel tanks must be cleared and cleaned before full assessments of the vessel can be completed. These services are consistent with those provided by existing on-call hazardous waste removal contracts the city has with three companies: Ocean Blue, Clean Harbor and NRC, all three of which bid on the job.

The ship has been closed to the public for over two years but the city is in the midst of millions of dollars of repairs. Officials hope the ship can reopen later this year, and the City Council just approved a contract with Evolution Hospitality for day-to-day operations. Joumblat said the work is not expected to interfere with operations.

During the meeting, Commissioner Bobby Olvera voiced concerns about labor use by NRC. Olvera questioned whether the port included a project labor agreement to ensure living wages and demanded port staff ensure the firm does not subcontract out the work to companies not beholden to such labor agreements, which has occurred in the past.

Joumblat assured the commission that staff would hold NRC to its labor agreement with the port.

International Longshore Workers Union Local 56, however, has a grievance pending with NRC over a separate labor contract, several union members stated during public comment. The union members claim NRC has not used ILWU workers for jobs within the port despite the contract, which has now lapsed, and a new agreement has not been reached.

Commissioners, for their part, said the board would cancel the NRC contract if the firm does not use Local 56 for appropriate jobs, with the contract transferring to one of the other two on-call hazardous waste firms.

Also during public comment, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association Vice President Thomas Jelenic said his organization continues to have concerns about the possible transfer of the Queen Mary to the port. Jelenic pointed to a recent City Council decision to spend $2.87 million in pre-opening expenses to ensure the ship was prepared for visitors and argued the LR, ABL and NRC contracts should be a city matter.

“Both sums of money represent a never-ending expenditure of limited public funds for a project that has a history of 50 years of failure,” Jelenic said. “Left unsaid is the estimated $300 million in repairs cited in the 2015 marine survey and the hundreds of millions needed to make the Queen Mary a successful operation.”

City Council approves new management agreement for Queen Mary

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Brandon Richardson is a business reporter, covering everything from real estate and healthcare to the airport and port to city hall and the economy. He is a Long Beach native who has been with the Business Journal since graduating from Long Beach City College in spring 2016 with an associate’s degree in journalism. He is an avid record collector and concert goer.
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