QM2: Good Investment or Billion Dollar Extravagance?

By Hampton Dixon, '11

Zingers and one-liners abounded during a live debate at Webb Institute in October. Dr. Stephen M. Payne, designer of Queen Mary 2 and Webb Trustee, matched wits with Mr. Michael Drayton, former Chairman of the Baltic Exchange, to debate whether Queen Mary 2 was a worthwhile investment or a billion dollar extravagance.

A moderately biased Dr. Payne argued that his ship was a great commercial success with a payback period of less than seven years.  He reported that the cruise industry has seen annual growth in the number of passengers carried, and the untapped demand in China will require 75 new Queen Mary 2-sized passenger ships in the coming decade.

Mr. Drayton painted a different picture.  Passenger ships represent an insignificant portion of the marine industry, yet they clog ports and paradises alike with traffic and needless pollution.  Mr. Drayton posited that a prospective ship owner would be better served investing $1 billion in a fleet of bulk carriers or containerships – ships that actually drive the global economy by transporting goods and raw materials rather than "picking the pockets" of passengers.  (As a shipbroker, Mr. Drayton would be glad to assist in any acquisitions – for a hefty commission, of course.)

This tongue-in-cheek debate offered Webb students a glimpse at the economics of shipping and some of the tough decisions made by ship owners today.  Watch the full debate and see how the student body voted at www.webb.edu/qm2debate.  Afterwards, tell us what you think at www.facebook.com/WebbInstitute