British luxury liner QE3 docks in Yokohama

Kyodo

The luxury liner Queen Elizabeth, or QE3, named after Britain’s current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, pulled into Yokohama Sunday night to make its maiden call to Japan.

Passengers disembarked from the ship to explore the city Monday. The cruise ship was scheduled to depart for Kobe in the evening.

The 90,400-ton vessel, which was launched in autumn 2010 as the third ship in Cunard’s fleet — Britain’s most famous cruising line — replaced the world-famous QE2, also named the Queen Elizabeth. It is capable of carrying up to 2,092 passengers.

The ship measures about 57 meters above the waterline and barely managed to pass under the Yokohama Bay Bridge at low tide.

About 2,000 locals and tourists gathered in Yamashita Park to welcome the vessel arriving at the Osanbashi Yokohama International Passenger Terminal — the main international pier at the port of Yokohama.

“I was really delighted to see so many people who have come to greet the ship,” said a 38-year-old female passenger from Australia, who planned to visit Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district.

However, the arrival of the world-famous ship has highlighted problems the dock industry has to face amid a global shift toward larger cruise ships.

Although the Queen Elizabeth managed to pass under the Yokohama Bay Bridge to get to Yokohama port, some of the large cruise liners that visited Japan in the past had to be directed to Daikoku Futo in a warehouse district in Yokohama’s Tsurumi Ward.

Daikoku Futo is a man-made island in the middle of Yokohama harbor that is mainly used as a container terminal.

In such cases, passengers have to be transported for immigration clearance to the Yokohama passenger terminal by bus or other means, since immigration checks are not available at Daikoku Futo. Many passengers have found such a trip bothersome and the landscape at Daikoku Futo “drab.”

The QE3 is scheduled to arrive at Kobe on Wednesday.