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There seems to be a lot of confusion over whether the Pier Head cruise terminal in Liverpool can or cannot be used for cruise ‘turnrounds’ – that is, cruises starting and/or finishing in Liverpool. Yesterday the leader of Liverpool City Council, Joe Anderson, said that a deal had been reached to permit this, but later comments suggest that it isn’t cut and dried. But why is a deal necessary at all? Here’s some background.

Liverpool already has not one but two cruise terminals. There’s one out at Bootle (Langton Dock) which they are free to use as they wish – day calls, turnarounds, or whatever. However Langton Dock is very much a commercial, industrial dock and in any case it’s some miles from Liverpool-proper. Then there’s also a terminal right in the centre of Liverpool at (or very near) the Pier Head, just along from the ‘Three Graces‘ buildings on the riverfront. But the problem with that terminal is that it was rebuilt just a few years ago with £17m of public money; £9m from the UK government and £8m from the EU. That cash came with strings attached – the terminal could only be used for day visits and not turnrounds. It was argued that other ports, e.g. Southampton, had financed their terminals themselves (or the dock owners had, Associated British Ports in the case of Southampton) and that to let Liverpool use their publicly-funded terminal to compete with the privately-funded terminals elsewhere would be unfair. Liverpool have been campaigning to get this restriction lifted since very shortly after the Pier Head terminal came back into use a few years ago, but it’s fair to say that other parties, ABP especially, have insisted that Liverpool be held to the agreement.

Liverpool City Council recently offered to repay £5.3m of the grant and initial feedback from the Department for Transport about lifting the restriction was apparently positive, but on reflection the Department decided to consult about it, and got a dusty response from the consultees. On 26 January Mike Penning MP, a junior minister at the DfT made a ministerial statement which included the following:

“In the light of that consultation, I find that there are persuasive arguments that this level of repayment would be insufficient to reflect the adverse impact on competition with other ports. I therefore intend shortly to seek independent advice on a more appropriate figure.”

Liverpool have now said that they will find more money, up to the complete £9m paid by the UK government, and are confident that this will resolve the issue. Presumably it was this decision by Liverpool City Council that led to the council leader’s comment yesterday. However, this doesn’t address the question over the money from the EU which may be another big stumbling block. But the initial response from the DfT has not been positive, according to a story on Travel Weekly. They say: “a Department for Transport spokesman, while welcoming the council offer, said the situation had yet to be resolved as it was awaiting independent advice on the level of repayments seen to be more appropriate.

The DfT added that turnaround operations at the City of Liverpool Cruise Terminal also require State Aid clearance from the European Commission.

There was a separate announcement yesterday from Fred Olsen Cruise Line. They have said (on their website) that they will run cruises starting and finishing in Liverpool from 2013. However, some reports from other sources go further and say that these cruises will be from the Pier Head terminal. Fred Olsen used Langton Dock for 10 years up until 2011, but then pulled out, citing problems navigating Langton Lock at various tide states with Boudicca in 2011 – in previous years they had used the much smaller Black Prince for these cruises, but that ship was withdrawn at the end of 2010. It’s not clear, therefore, what Fred Olsen will do if the current ban on turnaround calls at the Pier Head terminal persists.

One Response to “Liverpool cruise terminal”

  1. michael wallace says:

    unbelievable situation! the north-west suffers again cannot understand southampton i personally would not travel there to join a cruise anyway
    it just means flying, but having used Liverpool (langton dock)
    it does take a long time to get through the locks into the river
    after that its great hope everything resolves itself southampton get a life!!!.

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