The paddle steamer Medway Queen’s future is now in doubt because of the way she was built in 1924. Click on the image for a larger and clearer view
This worrying notice has appeared on the Medway Queen Preservation Society’s website: it seems the society and their gracious old ship may be in some trouble. If anyone out there thinks they can influence events, please do!
20th September 2007
On Monday 17th September Chairman, Vice Chairman and Treasurer of the Society, together with our Technical adviser Wyn Davies and Jonathan Shaw MP met with senior officers of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). At the meeting HLF re-confirmed that they were committed to providing £1.861 million towards re-building ‘Medway Queen’s hull’ and that the reason for the delay in starting was to ensure the conservation issues had been addressed properly before contracts were signed.
As reported at the AGM, HLF’s technical advisers had asked MQPS to go back to the drawing board and seek quotations for a fully riveted hull to the original specifications. 11 shipyards were approached and four – three in the UK, one in Norway, were prepared to tender for the work. We also approached the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and two classification Societies (Det Norske Veritas and Lloyds) to find out whether it would be possible for a ship built to 1924 standards of construction to eventually obtain a passenger certificate. We were able to report that, rather against initial expectations, it might well be possible to obtain a passenger certificate for a ship build to the 1924 standards, but further investigation revealed that even in 1924 ‘Medway Queen’ did not match the standards. A ship built to the dimensions of ‘Medway Queen’ and to the 1924 Lloyds standards would be around 20% heavier than ‘Medway Queen’ was and, given the very limited deadweight capacity of ‘Medway Queen’ as built, such a ship would be unable to carry passengers. So the only practicable solution to building a hull to match the Lloyds requirements will be to use modern welded construction.
HLF felt that to use modern construction for the hull, with limited use of rivets where they would have been visible on the old hull (generally, in machinery spaces not usually visible to the public) was a sufficiently large departure from our stated intention to re-build the ship using traditional methods wherever practicable, to require their Trustees approval before proceeding further. The relevant Trustees’ meeting is on 5th December, and our next task is to prepare the case for the Trustees approval and to have contracts ready for starting work early in the New Year.
In the process of reviewing the case for riveted construction we have learned much about the pros and cons of traditional steel shipbuilding methods – as indeed have the HLF. ‘Medway Queen’ continues to pioneer new territory in maritime preservation!
The Society are very grateful to Jonathan Shaw MP for taking time out from his ministerial duties to participate in this riveting discussions with the HLF.