Long Beach’s director of economic development said Friday the city is ready to “step in at any time” to operate the Queen Mary as it prepares for a bankruptcy hearing next week that could determine who runs the ship and whether the city will receive any funds from the previous operator to repair the historic vessel.
“We’re taking all steps and preparing for all scenarios,” John Keisler said Friday in an interview with KPCC’s AirTalk host Larry Mantle, reiterating that the city is committed to preserving the ship as a tourist attraction.
Long Beach is seeking $23 million in urgent repairs needed for the ship to reopen, and is owed close to $1 million in unpaid rent and other expenses by the former operator.
Urban Commons in 2016 signed a 66-year lease to operator the Queen Mary, but the lease was later transferred to a real estate investment firm called Eagle Hospitality Trust, which is now facing Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The mayor of Long Beach has said previously he is committed to preserving the ship, but Keisler for the first time Friday talked in some detail about what may happen if the operation of the ship—and the bill for all of the repairs—is left to Long Beach.
He said city staff is preparing options for the City Council, with funding for operations and potential repairs of the ship coming from passenger fees from Carnival Cruise operations, the Tidelands fund that pays for projects along the coast and any revenue from use of the land around the Queen Mary.
Carnival Cruise Line, however—which leases land from the Queen Mary operator—has not run cruises in more than a year.
It’s unclear what other funds the city may use until, and whether, the lease to the Queen Mary is auctioned to a new company.
Keisler said the city is working with engineers to develop a plan for “short-term” fixes aboard the Queen Mary so the City Council “can enter the ship as soon as legally possible to assess what needs to be done.”
The ship in the meantime remains closed until further notice.
Long Beach is also exploring turning over control of the ship and surrounding pier to the Harbor Commission, which operates the Port of Long Beach.
Listen to the full interview with Keisler, as well as Long Beach Post reporter Kelly Puente and former Queen Mary inspector Ed Pribonic, here.
Support our journalism.
Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.