June 29, 2006

Dubai bid to save historic cruise liner

Comment: They got this oen worng as they talk about the QE" but mean the NORWAY!
28 June 2006

A GROUP of Dubai investors have launched an ambitious plan to save the ssNorway, considered along with the QE2 to be the last of the great cruise liners, from Indian breakers who plan to scrap the vessel within the next two weeks.
‘Project Dubai', as it has been dubbed, is a $100-120 million plan that would see the liner snatched from the breakers and transformed into a luxury floating hotel and conference center moored in the city's harbour.
A joint UAE/US venture company called Gulf Desert LLC/Bleu Ribband has been established to negotiate with the liner's current owners and operators, who are towing the 1,000 foot-long passenger vessel to Alang, India, home of the world's largest ship-breaking yard.
John Voet, one of the U.S. partners, says the Dubai group had high hopes of buying the ship before wreaking crews start to tear her apart. Voet said the ship would be a 'fantastic commercial venture' for Dubai, that would eventually provide hundreds of new, much-needed hotel rooms as well as adding a significant cultural and historical asset to the city.
Marine historian Rueben Goossens, who started an online campaign to save the liner, said Project Dubai' would add 'yet another structure of great prestige to one of the great cities of the world.' Goossens said he had received 3,000 emails from people supporting the plan. “80 per cent of the people who have written to me say they will visit Dubai and stay on the ssNorway," Goossens added.
The fate of the ssNorway has been at the center of a growing controversy that has seen environmental groups and marine preservation organizations at war with the ship's owners, Malaysian-based Star Cruises.
Originally launched in May1960 as the French 'national vessel', the then named ssFrance was the longest transatlantic passenger ship in the world and arguably the most luxurious. The ship featured 1,200 cabins, two 800 and 900 seat restaurants, two swimming pools and a two-tier, 748 seat theatre. Move star Cary Grant and painter Salvador Dali often
vacationed on the ship. Even the Mona Lisa has been a passenger: the great painting was transported on the liner when France briefly lent Da Vinci's masterpiece to a US exhibition.
The liner was sold in 1979 to Norwegian Cruise Lines, who renamed her the ssNorway. She then spent the next 25 years cruising the Caribbean. But in 2003 a devastating boiler room explosion killed eight crew members while the ssNorway was docked in Miami.
After being towed to Germany for repairs, NCL's chief executive appeared to do a U-turn announcing the ssNorway would never sail again. The ship was towed to Malaysia where she floated until she was bought for scrapping in Bangladesh.
But, after a vociferous campaign by the environmental group Greenpeace, which branded the ssNorway as one of the world's 50 most 'toxic' ships, this February the Bangladeshi government refused to let the liner enter its waters. Greenpeace says the 1,000 tons of asbestos used as fire retardant in the ship make her an environmental hazard.
However, the Project Dubai team say the asbestos is only a hazard if the ship is broken up. Under their plans, the liner would be professional decontaminated by asbestos experts who would either seal the asbestos safely inside a rubberized 'case' or where it must be removed, have it dealt with using the 'highest international standards for decontamination'. The boat would then be completely refitted and then towed to a permanent mooring in Dubai to start its new life as a hotel, conference center and tourist attraction.
Project Dubai investors have persuaded the new owners of the ssNorway, a Liberian shell company called Bridgend Shipping and a consortium of  Indian breakers called Haryana Steel, to meet with them to discuss selling the liner and saving her from the scrapheap.
In the meantime, the Norway has been renamed the 'Blue Lady' for her last voyage, which began on June 14 in Fujairah, where she apparently took on new crew and supplies before setting off for India.
The ssNorway/Blue Lady will not be allowed to dock in India until a government inspection has been carried out to assess the extent of the asbestos in the ship. In the meantime, the liner is sitting approximately 100 miles off the coast waiting to hear if she will be scrapped or saved.
Project Dubai investors are now urgently trying to conclude a rescue deal. The Khaleej Times understands Project Dubai offers would give the Indian breakers around a $3 million profit for not scrapping the vessel.
“The Project Dubai goal is to meet a favorable price and terms and conditions that leave everyone happy," said Voet. “We are optimistic of reaching an agreement that leaves everyone happy."
Voet said in selecting and drafting the business plan for Project Dubai, the investors had followed Vice President and Prime Minister Muhammad bin Rashid al-Maktum's vision for creating quality venues and attractions in Dubai to attract high quality, international visitors.

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