U.K. Government Approves Liverpool for Turnaround Cruises

May 23, 2012

(9:45 a.m. EDT) -- U.K. Transport Minister Mike Penning today announced a lift on restrictions that had previously kept Liverpool from being used as a turnaround port -- pending the municipality's repayment of an £8.8 million U.K. government grant.

As Cruise Critic reported in February, the announcement follows a change of direction in talks that had been ongoing for years between Liverpool Council and the U.K. government about allowing cruise ships to embark passengers from Liverpool's terminal, which opened in 2007.

The discussion has centered on the fact that the Pier Head terminal was built with public money, on the understanding that it would be used for day calls at the historic northern port. Turnarounds –- in which cruises begin and end in the same location –- were not permitted because it would give Liverpool an unfair advantage over other British ports that have to build facilities using only private funding. Southampton in particular has been most vociferous about Liverpool attempting to bust the rules of fair competition.

With the agreement for repayment of nearly all of £9.2 million in public funding from the U.K. government, either in a lump sum of £8.8 million or £12.6 million paid out over 15 years, Liverpool would still benefit from about £8 million in grants from the European Union, according to the Liverpool Daily Post.

The decision is dependent upon European Union endorsement, but Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson has said he considers today's announcement an approval for cruise ships scheduled to use the terminal as a disembarkation point, according to the Daily Post. The mayor also said a temporary facility being built to handle passengers and baggage will be ready for the arrival of Cruise & Maritime Voyages' Ocean Countess next week. The ship is scheduled to depart on a British Isles and Western Europe cruise on 29 May.

Cruise & Maritime -- which is planning to operate 11 sailings from Liverpool this summer to Norway, the Baltic, France/Portgual, Ireland and the Canary Islands -- is not the only line intending to use the port. In February, Fred. Olsen announced its return to Liverpool, saying it will offer 10 cruises on Boudicca in 2013, between April and August, ranging from mini-cruises to Canaries voyages.

--by Jamey Bergman, Web Content Producer U.K., and Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor