x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

QE2's planned visit to Cape Town sunk

Istithmar World, who owns the ocean liner, says the proposed trip to South Africa for the football World Cup finals in the summer have been cancelled.

The Queen Elizabeth 2, pictured in the background at its berth in Port Rashid Dubai, where it will remain until its future is decided.
The Queen Elizabeth 2, pictured in the background at its berth in Port Rashid Dubai, where it will remain until its future is decided.

Plans to sail the Queen Elizabeth 2 to Cape Town in South Africa for the football World Cup finals in the summer have been scrapped. Istithmar World, the investment arm of Dubai World, owns the former British ocean liner that is berthed at Port Rashid in Dubai. Cape Town port authorities said they could not accommodate the ship for the required the length of time at the city's port.

Last year the firm said it was planning to send the ship, usually referred to as the QE2, to Cape Town to be used as a temporary hotel to accommodate what is expected to be a surge in demand for rooms during the World Cup. But Istithmar admitted yesterday the trip to South Africa had been cancelled and no fresh plans had been drawn up. "There are a number of options being considered for the QE2," the company said in a statement.

"Istithmar World is considering which option will best maximise value of the vessel." Dubai World is in the process of renegotiating US$22 billion (Dh80.8bn) of debt, which has fuelled speculation that its investment company might try to sell off some assets, including the QE2. Istithmar World declined to comment on whether this was one of the options being considered and would not offer further details on what the options were for the ship.

Sanjay Govan, the port manager at South Africa's Transnet National Ports Authority, said there was not enough space to accommodate the QE2 for the length of time required by Istithmar World. "It's the length of stay that was an issue," Mr Govan said. "They wanted to stay much longer than just the World Cup." He said the Dubai company also considered berthing the ship in a private terminal, but had encountered the same problem.

"You have to sacrifice a normal cargo-working berth for such an operation. You wouldn't do that for such a long time." Istithmar World bought the ship for $100 million from Cunard in June 2007. The original plan was to refurbish it and set up as a luxury hotel berthed at Palm Jumeirah island. However, that work has not yet begun. Protea Hotels, the South African hotel group, was thought to have been chosen to manage the ship during its planned stay in South Africa.

"The project was cancelled in November due to the inability of Transnet to accommodate the specific requirements for the QE2 in Cape Town," said Otto Stehlik, the chairman of the company. Other investments made by Istithmar World in the same year it bought the liner included the purchase of the luxury US retailer Barneys New York for $942.3 million. David Jackson, the chief executive of Istithmar World who oversaw the purchases, resigned from the company last week.

Last month, the W Hotel Union Square in New York, which was owned by Istithmar World, was sold at a foreclosure auction for $2m. @Email:rbundhun@thenational.ae