Around £17 million in public money -- including several million from the European Union -- was given to build Liverpool's Pier Head Terminal on the understanding it would only be used by cruise ships on day calls.
However, since May, Liverpool has been operating a number of turnaround cruises -- cruises that begin and end in the same location -- in breach of European Union guidelines and despite a U.K. government request to await an E.U. ruling on the matter.
Damian Richards-Clarke, a communications officer for Liverpool City Council told Cruise Critic: “We're currently working with the E.U. Commission, but we know it could take some time for them to make a final decision. It's our view that we're complying with EU law, but [a final decision] could take months or years, so we're just getting on with it.”
Southampton in particular has been vociferous about Liverpool attempting to bust the rules of fair competition. However, Liverpool insists that it is following the letter of the law.
In a statement, Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “We agreed to abide by the ruling of the [U.K. government's] independent arbiter and pay the money back, and that is exactly what we have done. As soon as the government gave us details of how they would like the payment to be made, we arranged for it to be settled promptly.
“The cruise liner terminal is proving to be a huge success and we have had extremely positive feedback from operators and passengers," Anderson continued, "It provides a big boost to our tourism industry – creating and sustaining many jobs."
In May, U.K Transport Minister Mike Penning lifted the restrictions on turnaround cruises provided the municipality arranged terms for repayment of the £9.2 million U.K. grant.
The terminal, situated in Liverpool's city center at the head of the River Mersey, has been used for turnaround cruises since Cruise & Maritime Voyages' Ocean Countess departed May 29 on the first of 11 turnaround cruises scheduled for 2012. And in February, Fred. Olsen announced its return to Liverpool, saying it will offer turnaround cruises on Boudicca in 2013.
Ocean Countess, which is to be replaced in CMV's fleet by mv Discovery in 2013, departed on its final cruise from Liverpool today. The line angered some passengers in September when it re-routed the ship's final destination to Spain rather than Liverpool in order to position it for a return to its owners in Greece.
--Jamey Bergman, U.K. Production Editor