QE2 halted for failing fire rules

Cunard, owner of the QE2, suffered further humiliation yesterday after the US Coast Guard withheld certificates of seaworthiness for the ship, citing fire safety violations.

The Coast Guard's action, which delayed the liner's departure from New York for a Caribbean cruise, compounded the public relations and potential legal catastrophe the company now faces following its decision to allow the ship to depart from Southampton a week ago, even though work on a major refit had not been completed.

In the early hours yesterday when the vessel arrived in New York for what was meant to have been only a five-hour transit stop, Cunard chairman, John Olsen, offered passengers on the transatlantic leg generous compensation and took journalists aboard to inspect the ship.

But it emerged last night that on Tuesday the ship's officers passed a vote of no confidence in Mr Olsen. They were persuaded by the captain not to send a letter to that effect.

While many of those disembarking in New York suggested that reports of the problems had been exaggerated, others eagerly told of their ordeals with broken plumbing, unfinished cabins and restricted access to the ship's public areas. "It was a bit like Beirut," John Clark, of Newcastle upon Tyne, said.

The Coast Guard said last night that inspectors periodically boarded vessels visiting the US and "fairly frequently" withheld certification pending safety alterations. Even so the events represented one more disaster for Cunard. The QE2, considered one of Britain's last symbols of national prestige, by this weekend has become an object of derision.

Even before yesterday's difficulties, 150 passengers were threatening to take legal action, on the basis that lives at sea had been endangered by the work. Any lawsuit would undoubtedly be aided by the evidence uncovered by the US inspectors.

Cunard said it would comply with the Coast Guard's demands and hoped to have the ship certified and ready for departure at 6pm yesterday evening, New York time, 17 hours later than scheduled. The delay makes it likely that rather than being anchored off the Caribbean island of St Marten on Christmas Day, the QE2 passengers may find themselves somewhere off Florida.

The Coast Guard said inspectors had found numerous "safety of life at sea violations", citing faulty ventilation systems and fire doors that were not working. Passengers could also be at risk, it said, because of debris in public corridors.

It said Cunard would have either to get the passengers out of the areas where the problems were discovered, mostly in the aft of the ship, or "completely crack those discrepancies".

Facing a possible sit-in by some of the passengers, Mr Olsen went on board the liner on Friday shortly before its arrival in New York. He offered everyone a full refund for their transatlantic crossing and a credit for 25 per cent of the fare for any future Cunard holiday.

He conceded that Cunard had "underestimated" the extent of the ship's deficiencies when it sailed from Southampton, but said: "There was no compromise to safety on the ship."

However, Karen Clark, a management consultant from California, complained about rolled up carpet in corridors, flooding and wires dangling from walls and ceilings.

Her main concern was what would have happened in an emergency, with many of the corridors blocked. "If we had had to abandon ship, people would have died," she said.

The Department of Transport last night defended its decision to let the QE2 sail. "When the QE2 left the UK it was on a passenger certificate for reduced numbers - for 1,000 people travelling. This was in recognition of the refurbishments. It was not a full certificate."

Champagne welcome, page 3

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home