E.U. Addresses Liverpool's Status as Turnaround Cruise Port

July 6, 2012

(12:00 p.m. EDT) -- Liverpool could be forced to pay back £8 million to Europe if it is proved that the historic port city is using the money to gain an unfair advantage over other U.K. ports.

Nearly £20 million in public money -- including £9 million from the U.K. government -- 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.

E.U. Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia addressed the issue today, saying: "Should the conditions of the [European Regional Development Fund] ERDF initial grant offer letter no longer be complied with, a recovery of the ERDF grant might be necessary."

In May, U.K Transport Minister Mike Penning lifted restrictions that had previously kept Liverpool from being used as a turnaround port -- provided the municipality repaid the £9 million U.K. government grant.

Turnarounds had not been permitted because of the advantage the port would enjoy over other British ports that have built facilities using only private funding.

Southampton in particular has been vociferous about Liverpool attempting to bust the rules of fair competition.

Today a Hampshire MP, Julian Lewis, was quoted by the BBC as saying Liverpool had acted in bad faith. The Conservative from New Forest East likened Liverpool's approach to becoming a turnaround port to "a sort of Trojan Horse tactic."

Liverpool has argued the use of its port for turnarounds is in compliance with European laws and began running turnaround cruises out of the Pier Head terminal on 29 May.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages has scheduled 11 cruises sailing from Liverpool this summer to Norway, the Baltic, France/Portgual, Ireland and the Canary Islands. And 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, U.K. Content Editor