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Such is the recession in Britain that even Queen Elizabeth II may soon be up for sale. The cruise ship, that is, not the monarch. The owners want to transfer her two sister ships, the Cunard Countess and the Cunard Princess, to flags of convenience. Under Britain's red ensign, Cunard's Caribbean operations have lost $:20 million ($48 million) in five years. By changing flags they could hire some non-British crew, saving $:4.5 million ($10. 8) a year.

But the National Union of Seamen has mutinied. A sacked crew in Barbados has refused to leave the Cunard Countess; and sit-ins are spreading to the line's 26 -shnip cargo fleet.

Lord Matthews, Cunard's chairman, says he will pull out of passenger shipping altogether within a month unless the union weighs anchor.m

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