(9 a.m. EDT) -- Despite the presence of shiny, new Pier Head cruise terminal on its city centre waterfront, the port of Liverpool is to lose the business of one of its most valued customers, Fred. Olsen Cruises.
Why? Because the £19m terminal, inaugurated in 2009, is out of bounds for ship turnarounds (embarking and disembarking passengers and supplies at the beginning and end of a voyage). As the facility was partly funded by the EU, Liverpool's rival, Southampton, itself privately funded, successfully launched a fierce protest about unfair competition. As a result, Pier Head may only be used for day visits by ships -- not for turnarounds.
Despite this setback, Fred. Olsen has remained faithful to Liverpool, using an alternative dock at the nearby commercial harbour of Langton. But not only is Langton overlooked by a scrap heap, it's also prey to fast tides and high winds, making getting ships in and out complicated and unpredictable.
Liverpool City Council is still lobbying the government to get the rules changed about using the Pier Head Terminal for turnarounds -- but not quickly enough for Fred. Olsen. "They haven't got their act together, so we're pulling out," said the cruise line's marketing director, Nigel Lingard, at a recent media briefing.
Fred. Olsen Cruises will sail from a host of other British ports in 2012: Dover, Southampton and Boudicca's new winter home of Portsmouth in the south and Greenock, Rosyth and Newcastle in the north.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor