Long Beach to ‘dispose’ of historic Queen Mary lifeboats after receiving no qualified bidders

Long Beach will dispose of 20 lifeboats that originally hung from the historic Queen Mary after the city failed to receive any qualified bidders in a more than two-month auction, officials said Tuesday.

The city in February removed 20 of the Queen Mary’s 22 badly corroded lifeboats as part of $5 million in critical repair projects for the aging ocean liner.

Rather than immediately disposing of the boats, the city put them up for auction for qualified museums, preservation groups and developers who might want to save them. But in a major caveat, any winner would need to provide their own transportation to cart the roughly 36-foot-long vessels off the Queen Mary parking lot.

While several people and groups expressed interest, the city ultimately received only two proposals, and neither met the requirements, which included showing how exactly they would preserve the boats and safely transport them, officials said.

Joseph Rodriguez-Jozwiak, an analyst with Long Beach’s Economic Development Department, said the city contacted the two proposers to give them each an opportunity to comply with the minimum requirements. One bidder withdrew the proposal, while the other did not submit any additional documentation by the extended April 28 deadline, he said.

“The city considers the matter closed and will move forward with the safe disposal of all of the remaining lifeboats, per applicable regulations,” Rodriguez-Jozwiak said.

It is unclear how exactly the city will dispose of the boats, which weigh around 12,000 pounds and are constructed with steel and wood.

The Queen Mary sees its lifeboats removed in Long Beach Wednesday, Feb.16, 2022. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova

The lifeboats were a top safety project for because of their poor condition and potential damage to the vessel’s structural integrity. Two boats will remain on the ship for restoration.

While there was no minimum bid, bidders were required to have experience in preserving historic relics and describe in detail their plans for the boats and how they would preserve them. The boats have lead-based paint, so any interested organization would have also needed to sign a liability release.

One of the bidders, Zack Armstrong, said he originally wanted a boat to help preserve its unique history. Armstrong, in an email, said he’s a mechanic and would work on the boat on his horse property in Shadow Hills.

The other bidder was QMI Restore the Queen, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the ship.

Mary Rohrer, the secretary for QMI, in a statement said the city should allow more time to find a way to save the boats. She’s hopeful the city can find a creative way to at least refurbish the metal parts for a future exhibit.

“The city welcomes our efforts to preserve the remaining lifeboats still on the ship,” she said. “All is not lost for our Queen Mary as long as the city management welcomes the community support.”

Completed in Clydebank, Scotland, in 1936, the Queen Mary originally had two smaller rescue boats and 22 lifeboats, which could fit as many as 145 passengers.

An assessment from architectural consulting firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates found that 15 of the boats are original to the Queen Mary, while the others may have come from other ocean liners.

The ship remains closed while critical safety repairs are underway, but the city has said it expects the Queen Mary to reopen later this year.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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