QE2 to sail for Cape Town, Nakheel confirms
Nakheel confirmed on Monday that the historic QE2 cruise liner, which Dubai bought for $100 million in 2007 and planned to use as a floating hotel off the Palm Jumeirah man-made island, will sail to Cape Town in major U-turn in the plans for the ship.
“After months of feasibility studies, it is clear that Cape Town, with ready-made berthing facilities, provides the best opportunity for us to open QE2 to visitors as quickly as possible,” Manfred Ursprunger, chief executive officer of QE2 Enterprises at Nakheel Hotels, said in a statement released to Maktoob Business.
The Queen Elizabeth 2 has been linked with a temporary berth in Cape Town harbour for weeks after Nakheel, part of state-owned conglomerate Dubai World, said it was considering berthing the iconic cruise liner outside Dubai.
South African media reported Nakheel had approached tourism authorities to berth the QE2 at Cape Town's V&A Waterfront, also owned by Dubai World.
Nakheel said it will provide details about the ship’s sailing to Cape Town after it has finalised the plan with the concerned authorities in South Africa.
“Cape Town will provide an exciting environment to experience the legendary QE2 over the next 18 months alongside the rich culture of South Africa and the incredible array of activities, entertainments and excursions available there,” Ursprunger said.
Nakheel said the forthcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup “makes a sensible business case” for moving the ship there.
Any deal still needs the approval of South Africa’s National Ports Authority and Transnet, the country’s major ports company.
Nakheel had planned to turn the QE2 into a floating hotel, but has been left untouched at Port Rashid since its arrival last November.
Berthing the QE2 in Cape Town for the World Cup could generate some much needed cash for Nakheel, which has been hit hard by the collapse of Dubai’s real estate market.
The company itself has put some of its projects, including the Trump Tower, on hold and has retrenched hundreds of staff amid a slump in property sales.
The company is at the centre of growing concerns over the emirate's ability to repay billions of dollars in debt and is entangled in a growing number of disputes over unpaid bills to foreign contractors.
The maturity of a $3.5 billion bond in December, and how to refinance it, is also weighing heavily on the minds of analysts rating Dubai's government-owned companies.
One of the world’s most famous ships, the QE2 had crossed the Atlantic more than 800 times in its 40 years of service and carried more than 2.5 million passengers before arriving in Dubai.