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Inspector for Eagle Hospitality Trust's Queen Mary loses job

Mr Pribonic wrote in August 2019 that the retired cruise ship’s condition was worsening due to neglect, and that it might soon be “unsalvageable”.

THE long-time consultant for Eagle Hospitality Trust’s (EHT) Queen Mary floating hotel has been fired, following his slew of scathing inspection reports on the ship’s deteriorating condition.

The City of Long Beach in California, which leases the Queen Mary to EHT, terminated its exclusive contract with Edward Pribonic, according to a report by the Long Beach Post on Tuesday.

Mr Pribonic is an independent engineer who had been conducting monthly inspections of the Queen Mary for almost three decades.

He wrote in August 2019 that the retired cruise ship’s condition was worsening due to neglect, and that it might soon be “unsalvageable”. When this sparked a public outcry, City officials argued that the ship was far from unsalvageable, and that Mr Pribonic’s language leans to the hyperbolic.

Mr Pribonic’s last monthly report on the Queen Mary was submitted in October 2019.

The Long Beach Post reported that the City plans to expand the scope of the inspection reports, and will open the job to bids from engineering companies in January 2020.

Mr Pribonic’s firing comes after the City commissioned a local engineering firm in November 2019 to review his inspection reports for best practices. The firm is also conducting its own assessment of the ship’s condition. Both reports are due in early 2020.

The City has also hired a third-party marine engineering firm to review a proposal by Urban Commons - EHT’s sponsor and the ship’s operator - for critical repairs to the ageing vessel, including the removal of its corroded lifeboats, the repair of peeling areas of the ship’s exterior, and the removal of standing water.

Separately, as announced on Dec 5, the City’s auditor is conducting an audit of the Queen Mary lease agreement. The audit relates to the 2017 and 2018 calendar years, a period before EHT owned the leasehold interest of the ship.

The Queen Mary is EHT’s second-largest asset. Stapled securities of EHT took a dive in October following news coverage on Mr Pribonic’s critical reports, despite assurance from EHT that Urban Commons is not at risk of losing the lease.

The counter was down one US cent or 1.8 per cent to US$0.545 as at 11.56am on Tuesday.