The ship is owned by the City and is a City asset...and a decision on what would be done with the ship belongs to the City...a point Mr. Klein readily acknowledged in telling us that's why he's keeping City Hall informed on matters regarding the ship (as city officials asked him to do).
Mr. Klein spoke with us by telephone on Sept. 16. Text below reflects salient points summarized/paraphrased from our rapid typed notes.
LBReport.com asked Mr. Klein if he could confirm reports about some kind of proposal to refurbish the Queen Mary in Asia, display her in the Peoples Republic of China for some period of time and then return her to Long Beach.
Mr. Klein indicated that his firm receives many proposals; he said some have come from in the U.S. (one from Alabama) and some from elsewhere. [We pursued this later.]
He said his firm has had engineering studies done on alternatives on how best to restore the ship. Among the issues that arise are should one restore the ship in place...and is it possible to restore it in place? If infrastructure work is being done on a new marina and a project [the QM area development] next to it, is it physically or logistically possible also to restore the ship or also keep the ship running at the same time?
Mr. Klein said what have taken place are discussions as alternatives with city staff and City Council and they've gone like this: we're trying to assess what our alternatives are with respect to restoring the Queen; here are the pluses and minuses to some of the alternatives we're getting. If this isn't even possible, we won't explore it. If it has merit, we want to explore it as an alternative, but we want input from staff and from the Council so we can see if the alternative has any legs.
He stressed that there's no decision to do anything at this point...and it's fair to say that he doesn't know at this point exactly what's possible and that's what's being analyzed.
Mr. Klein said he's trying to keep staff and the Council in the loop, which is what they asked him to do as proposals and ideas arise. Staff and Council typically ask questions and often want to back and consider their concerns, suggestions or opposition.
He likened the process to running ideas up the flagpole, saying there's no percentage in pursuing proposals or ideas unless there's support with staff and the city, and he's merely forwarding proposals to staff and the Council for their feedback.
Mr. Klein noted that it's the City's ship and thus it's the City's decision on what's to be done with the ship which is why he's discussing these matters with the City.
LBReport.com asked if Mr. Klein has a position as an interested party holding a development leasehold next to the ship. He replied that he's trying to do the following: what's the maximum restoration that can be done for a limited budget? And logistically and as an engineering issue, how can we do it if we're trying to develop the balance of the property and expand and build a marina? Is it logistically possible?
He said his interest is in trying to determine what our feasible alternatives are before presenting anything to the city. Some things have threshold questions to ask the staff and Council; unless they can answer in the affirmative or if they have severe objections, we won't pursue these alternatives. For us and for the historic groups and everyone else, we're trying to figure out how to maximize what we can do on the ship.
There's a limited budget. Tidelands doesn't have money for it. The City doesn't have money for it yet it is owned by the City and it's a City asset leased to us.
So what are the options to do the maximum amount of restoration for the limited amount of money that we've got and how does one do it logistically? One piece at a time, or over six years which is what we think it what would take or more...or does one try to potentially move the ship and have a maritime company try and do the restoration all at one time which is more efficient, and we're finding out about 1/4 as much money.
If you do something all at once on a large contract, it's faster, more efficient and costs less. If you stretch it out, it costs considerably more, at least four times as much as best we can determine.
Mr. Klein said he's had many ideas and proposals that have come to him and all he's doing is trying to juggle these as best we can...and since it's a city asset, that's exactly why we try and run some of this up the flagpole with the city and staff first before we pursue it because we're not in a position to make those kind of commitments.
We ask: is it fair to say you're agnostic on this or is he leaning in some direction?
Mr. Klein said he's not agnostic. He believes controlling things are the logistics. Regardless of money, if one is trying to develop a major project there, what can one do with respect to the restoration of the ship at the same time?
Mr. Klein said he's finding out that one can't go to a standard construction to restore the ship; one needs a ship builder or a maritime company to do a lot of the work. It's very specialized and not like remodeling a building in downtown Long Beach. There are only a handful of those types of folks around these days.
Mr. Klein said that in the U.S. today, ship building and modification is mainly for military ships and other ships [like cruise ships] are typically taken and dry docked overseas. He said his firm Googled this, and went to some maritime consultants, trying to find someone in the U.S. that can do this work and it doesn't really exist.
So it's not whether he's agnostic or not; rather it's trying to determine what are the parameters that he's faced with. Where can one actually have the ship restoration work done? Who is available that can really do it?
Is it feasible to do the work in situ or do you have to move the ship? If you do move it, where do you move it? And who can do the greatest amount of restoration for the least amount of dollars. Those are the things that are driving us.
Mr. Klein stressed that there are no decisions made on this. Just a lot of homework being done, a lot of investigation with multiple parties at the same time.
If we had an answer we'd make an announcement, but there isn't anything in concrete and that's the only certainty right now.
LBReport.com returns to what groups had approached him and from where. Mr. Klein said he's been approached by one group from Florida, two groups from Asia, one from Alabama. We've had people approach from at least five different locales with different ideas on how they think we should restore the ship.
LBReport.com asked about one that would taken the ship to Asia where it would be refurbished, then displayed for a period of time in the Peoples Republic of China at some 2010 World Expo, and then returned to Long Beach. Is there something to that?
Mr. Klein confirmed that's been one of the proposals.
But it's just one, we asked?
Not necessarily higher or lower, it's one among many?
That's correct, he said.
He added [speaking generally, not about any particular proposal] that some proposals may not be possible. People make proposals without understanding what the ramifications are or what we have to do as the lessee has to contend with in order to pursue one of these. I'm not saying they're bad ideas, but what we're doing is homework to see whether these things are feasible. That's what we're doing and that's why we talk to staff and Council to get their input so that we have all the stakeholders input, and historic as well. I've spoken to other people too; what do they think; who could do the best job?
We're trying to do our homework before we can commit to any of these ideas, Mr. Klein said.