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Terminal troubles as Fred Olsen pulls out of Liverpool

Larry Neild says it's time to get the Mersey mess sorted

Written by . Published on May 31st 2011.

Terminal troubles as Fred Olsen pulls out of Liverpool

ONE of Europe’s top cruise companies, Fred Olsen Line, has finally pulled the plug on Liverpool as a cruise city. It has excluded the city from its 2012 cruise itinerary.

Launching the company's new 2012-13 brochure at a reception in London marketing director Nigel Lingard made a particular point of listing the UK departure points to be used by the company’s four ships – among them Newcastle and Scotland - wiith none of the Fred Olsen ships dropping anchor in the Mersey.

We were once the biggest port in the
sodding world and now we can't even
get a thing like a cruise terminal right

The cruise giant is waving goodbye to Liverpool, with Lingard saying: "They (Liverpool) still haven't got their act together, so we are pulling out."

Olsen Line ships have had to use the inadequate facilities at Bootle's Langton Dock as a start and end point, which, as well as being within the dock-gate controlled system, is next door neighbour to a mountain of scrap metal. Not exactly the picture-postcard start to a luxury cruise - and voted by travellers as one of the worst in the UK.

Now it seems that beyond next year bringing the 28,000-ton Olsen liner Boudicca in and out of Langton Dock will be too hazardous to continue, owing to the Mersey’s high winds and fast tides. They say it would be much easier to berth at Princes Dock. But of course that's not allowed.

The decision will mean a loss of £4m to the city’s economy.

PortofLivDownload2.jpgLast week the city council announced the number of visits due to be made by cruise liners this summer to the cruise facility up the road at Princes Dock.

The number is in the teens, far fewer than the 40-odd a year predicted when millions were shelled out on the floating concrete landing stage.

The problem for Liverpool is it sold its watery soul to the European devil. When it took a hold-full of Euro gold, the deal was the landing stage would not be a terminal, but the equivalent of a floating bus-stop, where passing boats would call for the day. No cruises are allowed to start or finish there.

When, in 2007 the city’s £20m cruise facility opened on the World Heritage waterfront close to the Three Graces, it heralded joyous headlines of a return of ocean going liners to Liverpool’s front door.

Council Leader Joe Anderson has inherited the problem of the city having a terminal that isn’t a terminal and can only be used for day visits, or in an emergency,and not for embarking and disembarking passengers at the beginning or end of a voyage.

Talks are taking place with government ministers and it is likely to involve an arrangement where the money given by the EU is paid back – around £9m or £10m. It seems the only way to release Liverpool from its shackles.

The problem Liverpool faced when it was planning its terminal was this – a start and finished facility at Princes Dock would require customs, baggage handling and all the expensive paraphernalia needed for a full-blown terminal. So we opted for the bargain-basement option, and now its haunting us.

Rivals Southampton threw a spanner in the works saying allowing Liverpool to use its EU-funded terminal as a terminal would be against the rules.

The question Liverpool needs to ask is why didn’t officials at the time point out the potential stormy waters ahead? Did they read the small print for example?

At the time whenever a journalist (like me) referred to the new landing stage as a terminal, one of the council spin doctors would end up in a spin, insisting it’s a facility not a terminal, …”You can’t use the word terminal!” they screamed.

Facility was not a good headline word, so we stuck with the inaccurate terminal – and now it's stuck.

Langton Dock is run and operated by Peel, owners of Liverpool docklands. Peel, of course, need the city council’s help to steer its Liverpool Waters project through stormy waters. Perhaps the two could reach an understanding – and help each other out.

I mean were once the biggest port in the sodding world and now we can't even get a thing like a cruise terminal right.

Soon the cruise line firms will be thinking of their 2013 programmes – and the captains of Liverpool need today to put on their thinking caps to get this sorted, before the Mersey becomes a forgotten backwater. 

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14 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Michael CarpeyMay 31st 2011.

You have got to remember this is Liverpool in the 21st century, and not the 18th and 19th centuries when the captains of Liverpool ruled the world with their drive, enthusiasm and determination. Hasn't it dawned on you people Liverpool in 2011 IS a backwater already. Our only hope is to rekindle that spirit of byegone days. Anyway they won't be building any statues to today's so-called rulers of Liverpool.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Colette ForrestMay 31st 2011.

Have been on many cruises and Liverpool as a port stop is magnificent it has many cultural places of interest, excellent shopping and good transport system. Southampton on the other hand is little more than a dockland we have far more to offer!

Anthony SchumacherMay 31st 2011.

Liverpool may be a backwater in many ways, but as a cruise destination it is a dream, city centre shopping a short walk from the ship, lovely open space near the ship for welcome markets or maybe a cultural show of modern performing artists. Interesting for the American baby boomers who love The Beatles, and would love Liverpool to be on the itinerary of any cruise.
Lot's of excursions to interesting places outside of the city centre, Croxteth Hall, Speke Hall, Ness Gardens, etc.
It's a perfect destination that needs selling to cruise companies who are desperate to offer something different to their passengers, many of whom cruise two or three times a year and want some variety!

Fog on the tyneMay 31st 2011.

Talk like that, about Liverpool being a backwater isn't going to do any good. It might be an industrial and commercial backwater, but it is potentially the north west's big stopping off point for cruises. If they could embark and disembark at the Pier head it would look spectacular. Just look at the picture above

Michael CarpeyMay 31st 2011.

The picture above isn't the landing stage. That's the point - all the big cruise liners should use the Pier head terminal whether they are visiting, starting or finishing. So why don't they, who is responsible for this almighty cock-up in the first place. Liverpool's importance grew because of the port. We employed tens of thousands of dockers. What's left a couple of dozen dockers. People have to start asking the important question - what is Liverpool's raison d'etre? Our best hope is tourism and we even make a pig's ear of that. You would think it would be the easiest thing in the world to get a ship to tie up at the new cruise terminal. Just add the word Liverpool to the equation and you can put money on choppy waters ahead.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMay 31st 2011.

We know, we read the article.

Little JakeMay 31st 2011.

This is all Mike Storey's fault

Floating dreamsMay 31st 2011.

So who is going to pay for a terminal that ships can actually dock in once we give the euro money back? Peel??
Who is going to pay for customs facilities etc? Peel? I don't think so. They are too busy championing Salford Quays.

Absinthe & TurksMay 31st 2011.

“European devil” Laz? That’s hardly fair, the E.U. provided the money for this. It’s hardly the E.U.’s fault the money was claimed for something that was pretending to be something else – the E.U. might even have a good case for misappropriation!

Is the dead hand of Peel Holdings behind this humiliation as well? There’s nothing stopping them putting their hand in their pocket. It’s not state funding being used to unfairly give an advantage to a commercial enterprise.

When it comes to huge, expensive ugly buildings blighting the World Heritage Site at the Pier Head there's never any trouble or delay. Funny that, isn’t it?

Replacing the original, large, record-holding landing stage (that was an attraction in itself) that lasted a century with an ugly small concrete one that has sunk at least twice, and then getting rid of it altogether, was a series of own goals that have made Liverpool a laughing stock. Now we find that when a cruise ship is berthed the ferries can’t operate - even from their current makeshift ‘terminal’!

Can the people behind this stupidity actually manage to find their arse with both hands?

The people responsible for this monumental cock-up should be held to account whether or not they've conveniently taken early retirement, left politics or got a new job.

Alan HirdMay 31st 2011.

What would really be ideal is a Beatles' tribute cruise departing from the birthplace of the Beatles to the caribbean.
I very much agree that Liverpool has far more to offer than Southampton, and I should know because I was born and raised in Hampshire for which Southampton is the county town. The port of Liverpool forever!!! birthplace of the Beatles forever!!
With Fred Olsen pulling out of Liverpool I say let us all boycott Fred Olsen.
Maybe Cavern City Tours could consider expanding into Beatles' cruises out of Liverpool. Although the trouble they had trying to get the Hard Day's Night Hotel going may well be reluctant to undertake any further expansions.
I am certain that Beatles' cruises departing from the birthplace of the Beatles would be a huge success and a godsend for the cruise terminal.

Norman HoldenMay 31st 2011.

Peel own Liverpool JL airport( car-parking, luggage facilities, customs facilities etc.). Why do the facilities have to be at the Pierhead? When we went on a Caribbean cruise in March, we checked in at JLA; landed in Barbados, straight onto a coach without our luggage, and 45 minutes later arrived at the docks. After boarding, our cases were delivered to our cabin an hour or two after. What could be simpler? Peel could speak to P&O to find out how it's done.
As for attracting more day visits, it is the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War (1861-1865). Liverpool had many links with this,and also with the fledging USA (eg. first overseas consulate in Rodney Street). Could this be a job for Liverpool and NW tourist organisations?

ps - when we arrived back at Southampton, opened the curtains to see a nice view of a dredger.

Absinthe & TurksJune 1st 2011.

£20m is hardly "bargain basement"!

Absinthe & TurksJune 1st 2011.

Liverpool is to celebrate the sinking of the Titanic, according to the Echo.

Is this rubbing Southampton's nose in it?

Or are we steaming at full speed to disaster and embarrassment?

MikeAugust 12th 2011.

We have a world class city Can we please have world class leaders who can get a grip and reinstate us to our rightful position, The Cruise terminal is the worst place imaginable , dirty, broken , part flooded and smelly! Why
? We only need a customs building and there are plenty down at out word class waterfront standing empty Spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar! David Henshaw would have had the job sorted!!

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