Liverpool is a city with a long and distinguished maritime history – for many years it was the port of departure for emigrants leaving the UK for America and southern Africa.
There was a great fanfare last year when a shiny new £20 million cruise terminal was opened in the shadow of the former Cunard Building and the famous Liver Birds.
The planners overlooked one small point – to be any use for cruise ships setting out on voyages, a terminal has to have extensive baggage handling and customs facilities.
The new terminal is little more than a glorified landing stage, and can only handle ships coming alongside for a day. So now a major cruise line has abandoned plans for regular departures from the city.
Thomson Cruises had planned 30 voyages from the Mersey on their ship Thomson Celebration next year, but would have had to base the ship at Langton Docks in Bootle, described by locals as the Sierra Metallica because it is home to one of Europe’s biggest scrapheaps.
They discovered the disadvantages of the port 10 days ago, when bad weather forced the abandonment of a planned three-day cruise to Ireland, and the ship spent the weekend in Bootle.
David Selby, Thomson’s director of cruising, blamed Liverpool City Council and Peel Holdings, owners of the Mersey Docks, for their failure to agree to install baggage handling facilities.
The council, which will lose out on a potential £4.5 million a year in port fees and other income, would only say “The cruise liner terminal has been built with public money for ports of call ships only – it does not have customs or immigration facilities.