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I’ve got quite interested in this topic, so here’s an update on where everything currently stands (as far as I’m aware.)

The background is that Liverpool have built a new cruise terminal (but see below!) direct on the Mersey at Prince’s Dock close to the ‘Three Graces‘ buildings and quite near to the Pier Head. This was financed with public money (UK & EU) and among the conditions stuck onto receipt of that money was that it should only be used for day visits, not cruise turnrounds.  However Liverpool city council (which arranged for the terminal to be built) has been campaigning for that restriction to be lifted, and had offered to repay £5m-odd of the nearly £20m of public grants they’ve received. Initially the government was in agreement with that suggestion, but other ports (e.g. Southampton) objected: they’d paid for their terminals without recourse to public money and they didn’t feel that repaying just £5m was sufficient. The government went out to consultation on the amount to be repaid, but haven’t yet announced the outcome. The latest delay was because of the local elections – by convention, governments don’t make announcements that affect localities during a local election campaign. However, the local election was over two weeks ago and as of today, the minister responsible still hasn’t made an announcement.

In my previous posts on this topic I’d used the term ‘cruise terminal’, assuming that it included all the necessary facilities. It seems I was wrong, however: what’s been built is the landing stage and the facilities to handle day visits. The landing stage itself is big enough: the picture above shows Queen Mary 2 berthed at it, on a visit to Liverpool in 2011. If it can handle QM2 then there won’t be a ship in Europe that couldn’t dock there. But for cruise turnrounds it’s not just about berthing the ships; they also need to be able process passengers’ baggage, passengers arriving by car & coach, customs and border security, and ship provisioning. At the moment the facilities they have don’t allow for any of this. Despite the fact that use of the terminal for turnrounds isn’t (quite) a done-deal, they are going ahead with the construction of a temporary baggage hall on unused land in the Prince’s Dock complex. To be truthful it looks a bit like a shed; I wish I could find a decent image that I could post but there may not be one. However, have a look at this website which shows progress on the site. Yes, that grey warehouse-type building is it.

Something else that has changed is that the former Labour leader of Liverpool city council, Joe Anderson, has been elected Mayor of the city. He’s one of the new breed of ‘executive’, not Lord, mayors. He was very much behind the policy of getting permission for cruise turnrounds at the new terminal when he was leader of the council, so my assumption is that he will be equally in favour of it as mayor.

So that’s the current position. We still wait for the ministerial announcement on the amount of repayment that the Government would regard as appropriate. In the meantime Liverpool City Council seems to be going ahead as if they’ve already got the approval. This is getting close to the wire, however: the Ocean Countess’ cruise beginning on 29 May at Liverpool was supposed to be the first starting from the new terminal. This one at least may have to switch back to Langton Dock in Bootle.

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