UK yard to refit 'QE2'

The new Norwegian owners of the QE2 are to have the Cunard flagship refitted in a British yard for the first time in a decade following the fiasco which befell the vessel after its overhaul two years ago in Germany.

Kvaerner, which acquired Cunard earlier this year as part of its pounds 900m takeover of the parent company Trafalgar House, yesterday announced that the pounds 12m refit is to be carried out at the A&P Group's yard in Southampton.

In winning the contract, the British yard beat off Continental rivals, including Blohm and Voss, the Bremen shipyard responsible for the ill- fated refit of 1994. On the QE2's first voyage after the refit, passengers complained of exploding toilets and unfinished cabins. The fiasco cost the then Cunard chief executive, John Olsen, his job and Trafalgar House pounds 8m in compensation.

Some parts of the ship that were refitted in 1994 are being overhauled again, Cunard said. The number of passenger berths is being reduced from 1,760 to 1,500, and the main Mauretani restaurant is being upgraded.

The refit in November will take 19 days and provide work for more than 1,000 fitters, along with sub-contract designers, furnishing manufacturers and engineers.

The QE2 is scheduled to set sail again the day after the refit is completed on 11 December from Plymouth to Le Havre, and then to New York.

A spokesman said Cunard was confident the nightmare in 1994 would be repeated, when hundreds of contractors were still on board carrying out remedial work as the QE2 set sail after her German refit.

More than pounds 300m has been spent on the QE2 since she was launched from the John Brown yard on the Clyde in 1969. But last year her former owners Trafalgar House wrote down the value of the vessel by pounds 50m - more than was spent on the disastrous refit.