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The city of Liverpool will have to wait a few more weeks before it learns how much it will cost them to use the Pier Head cruise terminal for turnrounds and not just for day calls.

Liverpool’s Pier Head cruise terminal was financed with public money, from both the UK government and the EU, and as a result there are strings attached: they may not use it for cruise turnrounds, that is as a starting or finishing point for cruises. Turnround business would be a much bigger revenue-generator for the city and is therefore more attractive. The restriction is to protect the position of other ports such as Southampton, which have financed their own cruise terminals without recourse to public money. Liverpool have been seeking to get the restriction lifted, and had offered to repay some £5.3m. The government’s initial response was positive but there were considerable objections from other ports to the effect that it wasn’t enough – Liverpool received around £17m of public money in total. After running a formal consultation exercise among interested parties the government subsequently announced that they would ask an independent consultant to recommend a suitable figure for the repayment, and this was due to be announced in early April. But this hasn’t happened, and all Government announcements affecting UK regions are now on hold until after the local elections on 3 May. (Traditionally, governments do this so as not to be seen to be influencing the election by announcing grants, subsidies, etc.) So it will be 4 May at the earliest before Liverpool learns the cost, and it will presumably take some more time to make the payment.

This delay is likely to cause some problems, as it had been hoped that the deal would sealed in April so that cruise turnrounds could start very shortly afterwards. For example, Cruise & Maritime Services have cruises on Ocean Countess scheduled from Liverpool from 29 May and subsequent dates, and they were hoping to be able to use the Pier Head terminal. It’s not clear at the moment if they will be able to do so.

Liverpool has another cruise terminal at Langton Dock at which turnrounds can happen, but this dock is some miles from the city centre and is very much a small, traditional, industrial dock. The Pier Head terminal would be much preferred.

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