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The Laz word - on cruising from Liverpool

Will £9m 'ransom' to allow sailings really turn around city's fortunes?

Written by . Published on February 13th 2012.

The Laz word - on cruising from Liverpool

IS it worth paying £9 million or more to enable cruise liners to start and finish their journeys at Liverpool's historic waterfront, especially given that ocean-going passenger vessels are the very reason the Pier Head existed in the first place? 

The city claims paying what is, to all intents and purposes,a ransom to switch the terminal from a port-of-call facility to a singing-and-dancing embarkation landing stage will reap a rich treasure chest for Merseyside. 

But whether it is worth the millions of pounds of income it envisages is questionable. 

Observe the arrival of the liners right now and passengers can be seen boarding coaches in their droves for day trips to Chester, North Wales or other scenic destinations

Liverpool once ruled the waves as the greatest sea port in the world. Millions of emigrants departed from Princes Landing Stage aboard the great ocean liners in search of new lives in other continents.

Empress Of CanadaThe Empress Of CanadaThe wonderful wooden landing stage rippled gently with the waves, capable of handing them and fleets of passenger vessels. 

One by one the liner companies left. Cunard abandoned its spiritual home and headed to Southampton. Even today, the first class departure lounge remains intact on the ground floor of the Cunard Building. 

Across the road, the one time headquarters of the White Star Line – the building were the Titanic was designed – remains as an unmarked grave to a spectacular past. 

Over the next few decades Liverpool gradually closed its river-facing front door.

The building of the new cruise terminal was the first step in re-opening that door and restoring Liverpool into its rightful place as a starting point for the new generation of ocean liners.

Campaign logo by the Daily Echo in SouthamptonCampaign logo by the
Daily Echo in Southampton
Now, not content with nicking Cunard off us, Southampton is doing its level best to sink Liverpool's modest ambitions.

Grants used to pay for the new terminal were given on the basis it would be a port-of-call facility and not a landing stage allowing ships to start or finish journeys in Liverpool.

Ironically Southampton developed as the premier passenger liner port when it was in public ownership – so everything came from the public purse.

Liverpool has offered to pay back the money received from the Government towards paying for the new terminal – as much as £9m and it is now hoped operations will begin this summer.

But moving the water mark, Southampton says the council should also pay back the European money it received, even though Brussels hasn't asked for the return of its euros.

Aboard The QE3 At Liverpool last summerAboard The QE3 At Liverpool last summer

A few days ago, Liverpool hoteliers called for the row to be resolved, saying a departure cruise terminal would generate millions of pounds for the hotel industry.

But is that so?

There is no doubt the sight of some of the world's biggest floating cities moored off Princes Parade is great for the city. And yes, some passengers heading for Liverpool to depart on cruises will book into our hotels, providing welcome income.

However, observe the arrival of the liners right now and passengers can be seen boarding coaches in their droves for day trips to Chester, North Wales or other scenic destinations.

Reinadelpacificoinliverpool1954Click to enlargeThe actual economic value to the city is over-egged, but it is still well worth having as part of Liverpool's overall tourist pitch, and we wouldn't want it any other way.

But who in the first place negotiated a scheme that would only allow a giant "ship stop"? And didn't any officials ever point out the stormy waters ahead by not holding out in the first place for a proper terminal?

Does anybody deserve to walk the plank over this?

In the event it doesn't matter because if Liverpool wants a proper terminal once more, it'll have to cough up. Such a costly mistake though.

'I name this memorial....'

Liverpool's obelisk monument to the Titanic fails to mention the
name of that great unsinkable floating palace. The granite
memorial, almost 50ft in height, was unveiled in 1916 four years
after the tragedy in the North Atlantic. 

It is officially known as the Memorial to the Engine Room Heroes, remembering the 32 engineers who stayed at their post to ensure the Titanic floated for as long as possible to enable more people to abandon ship. 

Memorial To The Engine Room HeroesMemorial To The Engine
Room Heroes
There were heated debates in the council chamber over what the memorial stood for – the Titanic engineers or ships' engineers generally who perished in their course of their duties. 

One story is the big ship owners were resistant to a Titanic memorial on the Pier Head – particularly as tens of thousands would pass it on the way to the landing stage. Not a very appropriate final sight of land!

So to this day there has never been an official unveiling of the Titanic Memorial. When it was informally uncovered in May 1916, crowds gathered to view it – among them people mourning victims of both the Titanic and the Lusitania. 

Wouldn't it be a good gesture in this centenary anniversary of the Titanic's sinking if this striking piece of work is finally renamed as The Titanic Memorial?


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

Glyn HughesFebruary 13th 2012.

Very good piece but I would not underestimate the potential market the cruise turnround could provide. True, there are fleets of coaches taking people further afield but that is the case in whichever port a ship calls. Those coaches, however, are hired from local companies so they are creating some business. Take a look at cruise itineraries and it's easy to see that a good many Liverpool tours are provided: Albert Dock, museums, Beatles Story, the cathedrals and so on. Last time a Princess Cruises ship was here, I saw dozens of people walking towards Liverpool One with carrier bags from off the ship, so they weren't departing elsewhere. But, surely, the real business boost comes not only for hotels but also for the people called on to stock the ship. Watching the lorries arrive to stock Queen Mary 2 before she departs from Southampton with food, drink and all the other necessary stuff is a logistic performance but, surely, they will be from firms in the immediate area called on to provide 100,000 eggs or whatever it is: take a look at Cunard's website to see the scale of provisioning of a ship of that size. Checking in at Southampton, the departures hall has about 40 people processing passengers, not to mention security, porters etc - so there's a question of job creation. Small at the outset, but it's a market which is expected to grow significantly over the next decade. Liverpool has let so many opportunities slip through its fingers in recent years. Let's not lose this one, and let's be positive about it.

Chris JohnsonFebruary 14th 2012.

I suspect the cruise bosses of today would not be too keen on a Titanic memorial greeting passengers as they step-off modern-day floating hotel leviathans.

Grow upFebruary 14th 2012.

Are we saying we can't have a memorial to the most famous tragic ship in history in case it upsets a few rich pensioners?

You will note that in Southampton they have taken a much more mature attitude to this and have at least two grand memorials to the Titanic, listing all of its engineers and another to its musicians, many of whom, ironically, were from Liverpool.

As usual in Liverpool, our officials and burgermeisters take the attitude of not wanting to offend any of their mates in case they don't play with them any more.

Philip CoppellFebruary 14th 2012.

Just a small correction the Titanic was designed in Belfast, not the White Star Offices in James Street.

James HillFebruary 14th 2012.

No, plans were drawn up for it in the White Star office in James Street. It was built in Harland and Wolff in Belfast

A Night to RememberFebruary 14th 2012.

Of course by then White Star was already in American ownership.
Proper toffs only sailed on Cunard.

Gerry MarsbarFebruary 14th 2012.

Is the Royal Iris still rotting somewhere down south?

efcmark777February 15th 2012.

Good observations here but in truth issuing the key point, which is if you want to know how valuable this development is just look at how hard, and dirty, the port of Southampton has fought the proposals for Liverpool. Full turnaround status is a massive thing for the city. At present many cruise line customers do the long and tiring coach or sometimes car journey from towns and cities north of the midlands to arrive knackered and fed up at Southampton. It's a very early start for some or an overnight stay in a Southampton hotel to guarantee you and your bags are still not on the quayside as the glorious QM2 departs for sunnier climes ! I believe that turnaround status will deliver a paypack on that £9m way beyond the figures being quoted and even with trips to Chester and the Traffird Centre etc the city itself will see a big plus. This spineless un principled government have dithered and now blackmail Liverpool into paying back sums of money that pale into insignificance compared to the amounts thrown at Southampton for road infrastructure in the area approaching their cruise docking facility, yet their political pressure, the southern based bias at it again, has nearly won the day. Pay the £9m it's vfm !

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