Plans are afoot to berth the QE2 liner in Cape Town and convert it into a luxury hotel

JULIUS BAUMANN

IN WHAT must be the most ambitious hotel project yet in SA, investment group Dubai World plans to berth the ageing QE2 passenger ship permanently at Cape Town's V&A Waterfront and convert it into a luxury hotel.

Dubai World subsidiary Nakheel acquired the ship in 2007, and took ownership last November after she was retired from active service. Dubai World is applying for berthing rights from the National Port Authority, and the Department of Tourism is weighing up the desirability of the plans.

Ronel Bester, the department's spokeswoman, said yesterday that the department was aware of the plans, but several approvals were required before any decision could be made.

"The National Ports Authority has to decide on the practical implications of berthing (and) a decision has to be taken by the department on the desirability of allowing the QE2 to berth in Cape Town in the light of the available accommodation in the city and surrounds. We are consulting with the industry and the department will take a decision by the end of next week," Bester said.

It is believed that Dubai World is also in talks with a local group to manage the new hotel.

The hotel group did not want to be named, and was unwilling to discuss the plans as talks are at a sensitive stage. The other groups involved in the plans were also reluctant to discuss the berthing of the QE2 except to say that it was a distinct possibility.

In a terse statement, Dubai World said: "Dubai World Africa is not in a position to comment on any speculative issues that may be raised."

Transnet was also less than forthcoming. "Transnet has received numerous queries for the use of its port facilities, including from cruise liners. Our discussions with most of these are still at early stages, and it would be inappropriate for us to comment," said spokesman John Dludlu.

One issue that must be resolved is where exactly the 40-year-old QE2 will be berthed.

Because of her size - she weighs 70327 tons and is 294m long - it is unlikely that she would be positioned close to the waterfront.

baumannj@bdfm.co.za