THE NEW QM2
A FEW WORDS WITH
ABOUT HIS NEW COMMAND
By RICHARD H. WAGNER
(Originally published in The Log,
Navy League of the United States,
New York Council, Summer 2004)
On 22 April 2004, QUEEN MARY 2 (“QM2’), the largest passenger
ship in the world, paid her initial call to our harbor. After three days of
stopping traffic on the Westside, QM2 sailed with her predecessor,
QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 (“QE2’), past saluting fireboats and a
fireworks display. In view of the fact that QM2 is ultimately American-
owned (her owner Cunard Line Ltd. is a unit of Carnival Corporation)
and that she will be serving New York on a regular basis, the arrival of
this ship is an important event in New York merchant marine history.
Accordingly, The Log sat down with the master of QM2, Commodore
Ronald Warwick, to discuss this historic ship from a sailor’s perspective.
QM2 is the first ocean liner built in over 40 years. An ocean liner differs
from a cruise ship in that the former is designed primarily for blue/gray
water voyages from A to B whereas the latter is designed for leisurely
round trips in calm waters. Accordingly, cruise ships also tend to have
much blunter bows than ocean liners and considerably more speed.
QM2 was built in France at the same shipyard that built the
NORMANDIE and the FRANCE at a cost of over $800 million.
QM2 is 1,132 feet long and has a beam of 135 feet. As such, QM2 is
approximately the same dimensions as the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN
65). Towering 204 feet above the waterline, “wind has a great effect.”
Yet, unlike the original QUEEN MARY (retired in 1967), the QM2 has
very little roll in normal seas. Commodore Warwick also said that the
ship did well in the force 10 conditions that she encountered on her first
transatlantic crossing, attributing the ship’s good seakeeping ability
primarily to the design of the hull, which is longer and wider than other
When QE2 was constructed in the 1960s, the builders employed
technology that was in advance of its time, which has kept that ship from
becoming obsolete. Commodore Warwick, who commanded QE2 and
who authored the definitive book on that ship, explained that QM2 also
uses innovative technology but “not quite in the same way.” While QM2
was not the first ship to employ any particular technology, the designers
of QM2 incorporated the latest technology in their plans. Moreover,
because ships can be built much more quickly today than in the 1960s,
the technologies incorporated in the designs remained cutting edge when
the ship went into service.
To illustrate how the advance of technology affected construction,
consider how the designers approached the problem of making the hull
strong enough to handle the rigors of the North Atlantic. The designers
of QE2 knowing that the hull needed to be strong simply made the steel
of the hull as thick as a warship. Because of modern testing and
computer profiles, the designers of QM2 were able to determine much
more precisely how much steel was needed. Consequently, the steel of
QM2’s hull “is not quite as thick but is just as strong.”
QM2 is powered through the water, not by conventional propellers
connected by long shafts to the engines, but by four pods suspended
beneath the hull, which produce 157,000 horsepower and allow the ship
a maximum speed of approximately 30 knots. The propellers on the
pods face forward and pull the ship through the water like an airplane’s
propellers pull a plane through the sky. “This is a much more efficient
arrangement.” The blades are turning in undisturbed water which allows
“the full effect of the blades” to go toward propulsion.
The pod arrangement also dramatically increases the ship’s
maneuverability. The rear two pods can be turned through 360 degrees,
which when combined with the ship’s three bow thrusters, allow the ship
“to turn very comfortably within her own length.” Accordingly the QM2
does not have to use tugs, although in harbors like New York, tugs are
hired to standby “as a question of prudence.” Not bad for a ship with no
Looking like modern art, QM2 carries spare blades on her foredeck.
The Commodore pointed out that each blade has a small hole in it to
allow for lifting by cranes. This is to facilitate using divers working with
sea canes to replace damaged blades rather than taking the ship into a
shipyard for such repairs.
Each of the earlier Cunard queen-class ocean liners has served as a
troopship. As a British-flag ship, QM2 is also subject to being “taken up
from trade.” Commodore Warwick commented that “it would be
foolhardy to say that it would never happen.” However, “I don’t foresee
a situation where such a thing would occur again.” The reason the QE2
was called into service in 1982 was that there was no way to transport
British forces to the Falkland Islands combat zone by air. In subsequent
conflicts, the primary means of transporting troops has been by plane,
Inside QM2 resembles a five-star post-modern hotel with ten
restaurants, 14 bars, five swimming pools, a Canyon Ranch spa, the first
planetarium at sea, and Internet connections throughout. She can
accommodate 2,620 passengers and has a crew of 1,253.
Commodore and Mrs. Warwick in the
Britannia Restaurant on QM2 in 2004.
QM2 disembarking from the
Manhattan Passenger Ship Terminal
QM2 at sea during the first tandem crossing of the Atlantic with QE2 in April 2004.
Cruise ship interview - - Cunard - - Queen Mary 2 - - Commodore Ronald Warwick