Are you an expert in preserving historical items and looking for corroded and lead paint-covered lifeboats? Well, Long Beach has an opportunity for you.
The city of Long Beach is looking for bidders — museums, preservation groups or developers — interested in buying one or all 20 of the Queen Mary’s lifeboats as it kicks off a $5-million repair project, officials said. The project is the first step in reopening the Queen Mary to the public after it closed in May 2020.
The Queen Mary has been in severe disrepair for years — so much so that the city had once considered sinking the ship after taking control of the vessel from its operator last year. The former operator, Eagle Hospitality, had severely neglected the ship and filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2021. It surrendered its lease agreement for the Queen Mary in June.
Rather than sinking it, the city opted to save the historic ship because it’s a major economic generator for the city. According to a 2020 economic impact report, spending associated with the Queen Mary supported 1,374 jobs in Long Beach and generated $93.7 million in economic output.
“It is our responsibility to preserve the Queen Mary and ensure this historic landmark is properly cared for,” said Mayor Robert Garcia in a statement last month. “Now that the city has full oversight and control of the Queen, it’s important we make the critical repairs needed.”
Removal of the deteriorating lifeboats attached to the vessel was priority No. 1 in this phase of repairs, according to city officials. The stress the lifeboats exerted on the boat’s side shell created “severe cracks” in its support system. Removing them would make the ship more stable and eventually enable the city to welcome guests onto the ship again.
This phase is only a small step in saving the 87-year-old vessel. A 2017 study recommended $289 million in renovations, including an immediate $23 million in repairs to prevent it from capsizing.
Organizations interested in buying a lifeboat must submit a proposal outlining their experience in preserving historical items. Bidders will have to sign a liability waiver because of the lead paint and have the ability to transport the 12,000-pound boats to their destination themselves.
Removal of the lifeboats from the Queen Mary started in early February, after the city contracted with Exbon Development Inc. for the project.
The boats are described as being “in poor condition” with “significant corrosions.” But despite the wear and tear, many of their features remain intact and they have preserved much of their original appearance, according to a report detailing the boats’ condition and history.
Times staff writer Hugo Martin contributed to this report.