Liverpool and Southampton on the verge of Cruise Wars

November 1, 2010


(6:15 a.m. EDT) -- Two British ports appear to be on the verge of cruise wars once again, as Liverpool and Southampton take potshots at one another via their local newspapers.

Here's why. Liverpool wants to handle lucrative ship turnarounds (which means boarding and disembarking passengers and loading ships up with provisions) from its sparkling new Pier Head Terminal. But because the terminal's construction was partly funded by EU money, the port of Southampton, which receives no public funding, fought vigorously and successfully earlier this year against what it sees as unfair competition. As a result, Liverpool has to content itself with using Pier Head for day visits only, not turnarounds.

Now, Liverpool Council has renewed its appeal to the government, to the disgust of Southampton's Daily Echo, and in support, Merseyside's local newspaper, The Liverpool Daily Post, has launched an online petition campaigning for cruise ships to be allowed to turn around at Pier Head.

Liverpool has a lot of parties with a vested interest in cruising, among them the City Council, local hoteliers, shopkeepers and restaurateurs, and the general public, many of whom are proud of the city's long-standing maritime heritage. And with each cruise ship turnaround generating an estimated £150,000, it's hardly surprising that the cruise business is so fought after.

What's really frustrating for Liverpool is that the city already has a cruise terminal, at Langton Dock, but it's old and run down and unappealing for cruise ship turnarounds. It's also impractical for larger ships to access, due to the huge tidal range of the River Mersey. Fred. Olsen Cruises, a great supporter of Liverpool, has cancelled its turnarounds at the port from the middle of 2011 because of safety concerns of getting its ship, Boudicca, in and out of Langton. Yet Fred. Olsen's marketing director, Nigel Lingard, is quoted in the Daily Post today as vowing "absolutely" to keep operating from Liverpool should the restrictions be lifted.

What do you think? With cruises already departing from Newcastle, Holyhead, Leith and Greenock, would you be particularly concerned about sailing out of Liverpool? Should any port be allowed to handle ship turnarounds if it means more choice for the consumer? Let us know!

--by Sue Bryant, Contributing Editor