Author Topic: QE2 Refit and Repairs: 3 November to 14 December 1978  (Read 1507 times)

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Online Lynda Bradford

This information is curtesy of Michael Gallagher, former Cunard Historian.  Please do not copy without permission from Michael Gallagher

Timescale: **Six weeks
Date: 3 November – 14 December 1978
Place: Vosper Thorneycroft, Southampton
Cost: TOTAL COST: *£6.7 million
Captains: L Portet and D Ridley

*The original total cost of the refit was divided between £3.1 million on capital additions and £3.7 million on maintenance and improvements.

The £3.1 million was broken down as follows:

Revenue            £886,623
Capital            £2,074,354
Damage            £443,666

The £3.7 million was broken down as follows:

Furnishings         £573,000
Technical Stores   £269,000
and Renewables   £1.4 million (approx)
Overhaul            £1.4 million (approx)


Initially a 17 day refit was planned.  However Shipyard Unions aggrieved that the 1977 refit had taken place in Bayonne demanded addition work to compensate their 2000 members.  Cunard cancelled the scheduled crossings of 30 October - 4 November (Westbound) and the 4 – 10 November (Eastbound) to extend the refit. This extended the planned refit by 11 days – 30 October to 26 November – with QE2 scheduled to sail for Boston on 27 November.

Throughout the state of the boilers and the extra work demanded would cause further concern and a 13-day delay with QE2 scheduled to return to service on 10 December.


Actual Schedule: 3 November to 14 December 1978

- Original 17 day schedule starting work on 10 November was extended by 11 days to accommodate Union demands.
- New scheduled dates 30 October to 26 November agreed
- 27 October 1978: engine fire delayed QE2's arrival in Southampton, which delayed the start date by one day
- Problems undocking Oriana resulted in delaying QE2 entering dry dock until 21:00 hrs on 3 November instead of   
  1 November, putting the schedule back
- The extra work because of the state of the boilers added a further 13 days to the work and the expected return to
  service date for QE2 was 10 December.  The Southampton – New York sailing on November 27 and a subsequent -
  Caribbean cruise was cancelled because the amount of work required on her boilers. 

Southampton Shipyard Union Members Actions that had a disastrous affect on the refit and the schedule:

-Unions instructed members to "work to rule"
-Overtime was banned
-Shop Stewards instructed night shift workers only to report for day shift duties
-An ongoing inter-union row with ship repairmen wanting pay parity with boilermakers
-Crane drivers "work to rule"
-Caulkers internal union dispute
-Shortage of workers from the key trades, particularly during the first two weeks of the refit, caused an imbalance   
 of work

Southampton tug  strike delayed QE2 from leaving the dry-dock until 5 December and also prevented Canberra from entering the ship repair facility.

A shortage of cranes and the extra work found on all three boilers contributed to the immense programme of work which also proved too much for Vosper Thorneycroft. Manpower proved to be very weak and many jobs including the boilers were delayed due to a bad mix of skills.

Fire: The Fire Service was called out as a precautionary measure when an electrical fault resulted in a fire in one of the Penthouse Suites. The overheated wiring, in the pre-heather of the ventilation system, had burned itself out and there was no damage to the suites except for the effects of smoke.

« Last Edit: Feb 07, 2018, 07:12 PM by Lynda Bradford »
I was proud to be involved with planning QE2's 50 year conference in September 2017 in Clydebank

Online Lynda Bradford

Re: QE2 Refit and Repairs: 3 November to 14 December 1978
« Reply #1 on: Feb 07, 2018, 07:06 PM »
Boot Topping

Cunard were asked by the British Admiralty to test a new three-layered anti-fouling paint that had been developed by International Marine Coatings (IMC – formerly International Paints) based in Newcastle. This new Self-Polishing Copolmyer (SPC) was a revolutionary paint system in as much, as its name implied, incorporated the ability for the paint surface to become smoother than when it was applied during a ship’s normal service. Small protuberances and bumps on the paint surface would be gradually worn away by the flow of water past the hull, and so the ship’s resistance decreased substantially – by as much as 30% in some cases. This feature made it an invaluable device for reducing a ship’s fuel consumption compared with conventional coatings, and this was especially so for large and fast ships such as QE2.

The problem aesthetically was that SPC was only available (at that time) in blue, green or maybe grey and these colours were applied in alternate layers. This enabled coverage and erosion rates to be observed by seeing which colour was showing. The blue would be a break from the traditional liner boot-topping of red and it was never understood (economy?) why QE2 could not be given the normal vermillion boot-top over the SPC paint.

The blue altered the external appearance of QE2 but was only used for a short period before shades of red were available and the boot-topping was re-painted. The degree of success would be monitored closely after the refit. Cunard’s specified requirement for the final smoothness was a maximum of 200 microns (contract was + 7 ½). Preliminary independent measurements made by B.S.R.A indicated an average of 185 microns. This new paint was expected to last two years – and was expected to save 12% of QE2’s fuel bill of £5 million over two years.

Before QE2 dry-docked, 50 20-ton lorries had delivered all the equipment within 24 hours and in a record-breaking four shifts, 27 miles of stage tubing involving 28,000 connections and 11 miles of walkway had been erected around the ship.

A 24-man blasting team worked at night to blast 12,000 square metres of hull between the liner’s keel ad deep load line. Following surface treatment and a holding primer, three coats of anti-corrosive and four coats of Intersmooth were applied.

Cunard would encounter difficulties with the paint when QE2 was in service.
I was proud to be involved with planning QE2's 50 year conference in September 2017 in Clydebank

Online Lynda Bradford

Re: QE2 Refit and Repairs: 3 November to 14 December 1978
« Reply #2 on: Feb 07, 2018, 07:08 PM »
Behind the scenes and technical work


Extensive work on boilers was planned but when the boilers and fresh water distillation plant were dismantled it became apparent that massive repairs would be necessary. An examination of the boiler gas passages also showed the total inadequacy of the cleaning methods and radical alterations were necessary.

Those working in this area were horrified at the condition in which the boilers were found on stripping down.

Cunard decided that work should concentrate on renovating two of the three boilers with the third being given a temporary lease of life until the next refit.

Both port and starboard HP turbine rotors were changed. This extra work was a setback that added considerably to her normal overhaul period by more than a week.

Bulbous Bow

Suppliers: Sunderland Shipbuilders Ltd (North Sands Yard) built the new bulbous bow to the original drawings of John Brown & Co
Timescale: six weeks from obtaining the contract including the construction of a mock up.
Aluminium Structure

A large amount of repairs to the aluminium structure were completed. Some of the repairs were not completed due to a lack of welders.
I was proud to be involved with planning QE2's 50 year conference in September 2017 in Clydebank

Online Lynda Bradford

Re: QE2 Refit and Repairs: 3 November to 14 December 1978
« Reply #3 on: Feb 07, 2018, 07:09 PM »
Delayed Reintroduction

Originally QE2 was scheduled to depart Southampton for the US on 27 November but the refit overran by 13 days. The 27 November westbound transatlantic, the 2 December Caribbean cruise (two weeks) from New York and the five-day ‘Bonanza Cruise’ to the Bahamas from New York scheduled to depart on 16 December had to be cancelled.

QE2 was expected to leave the dry-dock on 3 December and be able to sail for New York on 10 December placing her back on schedule for the 21 December Christmas cruise from New York but a tug men’s strike altered these plans and this delay would affect Canberra’s expected placement into the dry-dock which had been scheduled for 29 November.

QE2 finally left the dry-dock on 5 December. She was scheduled to depart on 10 December but an electrical fault caused further problems and a further four-day delay. The 400 embarked passengers would use the ship as a hotel and excursions were arranged for those who did not wish to remain on board all day.

QE2 finally departed from Southampton on 14 December for her last westbound transatlantic crossing of 1978 – she had to get to New York in time for the highly profitable annual Christmas cruise that was scheduled to depart New York on 21 December.

It was necessary to sail with three (instead of four stabilisers) as an examination of the port aft stabiliser found that many parts were very badly damaged and new parts could not be manufactured in time to be fitted before the ship left dry dock.

Workers were still on board during the crossing to New York and QE2 received a lot of negative publicity, especially in the New York Times. And bad weather on 19 December resulted in a life raft going adrift and the air conditioning intake being damaged.

An original cost of the refit was £3.2 million but there was a significant overspends due to the delay and extra work.
« Last Edit: Feb 07, 2018, 07:12 PM by Lynda Bradford »
I was proud to be involved with planning QE2's 50 year conference in September 2017 in Clydebank