A SECOND cruise line is set to snub Liverpool in a new row over berthing facilities.
Fred Olsen is ready to pull out because it is unable to base a ship at the Cruise Liner Terminal, at the Pier Head, and is currently forced to tie up alongside eyesore scrapyards in Bootle’s docklands.
The company says it can no longer expect passengers to start a dream holiday in a dismal industrial area.
A few weeks ago, Thomson Cruise pulled the plug on a 30- voyage programme after trialling the unsightly berth at Langton Dock.
Both lines claim they thought the terminal at the city’s waterfront would be available to use, but it has neither the necessary Customs or baggage handling facilities. At the moment, it can only be used as a port of call.
Fred Olsen marketing director Nigel Lingard said they decided to operate a ship out of Liverpool a couple of years ago on the clear understanding that new facilities would be made available.
“We made it clear to everyone that long-term success would require improved passenger and ship operating facilities.
“Our success in building up a local market is not something we wish to sacrifice lightly, but it’s not satisfactory to start anyone’s dream holiday with a scrapyard for scenery and abysmal passenger facilities.
“We find it virtually impossible to explain to potential customers why Liverpool has a much-heralded new cruise berth while we are berthed in a dismal industrial area.”
The line has based the 241-cabin Black Prince in Liverpool, but that ship is being retired next year and replaced with the much bigger vessel, Boudicca.
Mr Lingard added: “Boudicca has double the capacity, but we are reluctant to commit her to Liverpool if our only option is Langton Dock.”
He added that the company was yet to make a formal decision.
Black Prince is carrying 8,000 passengers annually from Liverpool and Thomson hoped to carry 50,0000.
Following the Thomson decision, talks were held involving Peel Holdings, owners of the Port of Liverpool, and the city council ,with the Northwest Development Agency backing an upgrade of the facilities at the Cruise Terminal to provide Customs facilities.
A Peel spokesman yesterday declined to comment on the situation.
However, in the 2008-2009 Port of Liverpool directory, the company boasts that 26,000 cruise customers will use Langton this year, and that it is “the ideal location for cruising out of Britain”.
The site provides Customs facilities, a reception point, passenger lounge, top-class security, and a covered baggage area. There is no mention of mountains of scrap.
A spokesman for the city council said it had already been documented that the £20m terminal had been built with European money which precluded its use as a boarding and departure point.
However, he added: “It is recognised that improved facilities are needed and we continue to work with Peel, the regional development agency and Merseytravel to progress this.
“We are looking at options such as changing the existing facility, providing a new one or improving Langton Dock.
“Also, we never had the authority to tell cruise lines they could use it, because it doesn’t currently have the requirements like Customs control.”
Peel’s Liverpool Waters masterplan contains proposals for a cruise berth in the docks north of the Pier Head, but they are likely to take some considerable time to develop.
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