Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

If you are unfamiliar with the ‘Cruise War’ check our previous article first – Fred Olsen Quits Liverpool (Opens in a new window)
or Check Captain Greybeards blog for a quick Summary

Southampton has paused the building of Cruise Terminal 5 for at least a year, as it waits for the outcome of Liverpool’s Cruise Terminal bid. This can only be seen as an attempt to highlight the belief that state aid to Liverpool distorts competition and ruins free-enterprise. This is based on the currently untested assumption that Liverpool’s state aid could be illegal. In reality this makes no business sense other than to ’cause a scene’. Why Southampton would cut planned capacity increase in a growing industry is beyond me, they are in fact then sacrificing market share, or there was no longer an economic case for T5?

I am trying to write a balance argument, but I am from Liverpool, and want to see cruise ships in Liverpool more and more, but I love business and am passionate about free enterprise.

The flaws I see with Southampton’s argument;
– People don’t want to have to go down to Southampton for a cruise, it takes hours on the train, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and many others are closer to Liverpool, so choice should be provided.
– Liverpool has received backing from the Government because it needed it, like many other industries, car manufacturing and technology are perfect examples, grants are given to create economic growth.
– The increased awareness of cruising as people see these huge ships in Liverpool would encourage more people to cruise, inevitably sailing out of Southampton as the UK’s leading cruise port.

The flaws I see with Liverpool’s argument;
– As far as we know no cruise line has committed to using the facility, is it going to make economic sense?
– Peel Ports is a commercial business and a government grant is against the concept of free enterprise. A concept I believe very strongly in.
– The cost of building terminal’s and facilities in Liverpool is higher, due to the tidal patterns in Liverpool, The cost of the current floating landing stage is comparable to that of a full terminal in Southampton.

Since it was the late 60’s when Liverpool’s passenger shipping industry declined, Businesses in Southampton would benefit from opening in Liverpool to service the cruise industry, they already have the skill, knowledge and business relations that no local competitors can provide.

With one terminal used for both visiting cruise ships and the proposed turnaround service Liverpool could only really achieve 20/30 cruise turnarounds, and that’s with Cruise Line backing, which is never guaranteed.

The local newspapers, The Daily Echo (Southampton) and The Liverpool Echo & Daily Post have been blowing the news story out of proportion. One of The Daily Echo’s most recent news stories being the shock of Liverpool planning turnaround facilities if the turnaround ban was lifted…WHAT DID THEY EXPECT? If the ban is lifted surely it would make sense to build the suitable facilities. The shoddy journalism is widespread across the three papers.

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9 thoughts on “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

  1. My dad said they should have built proper facilities before rather than a landing stage. Since the original cost of that rocketed from £10 million to £19 million (the same as Ocean Terminal), I’d say it’s tax payer’s money wasted. Liverpool Council and tax money should be kept out of it especially in these times of recession and people losing jobs. Why should tax payers fund something when they’re struggling to make ends meet? As you say, Peel are a private company. Therefore, as they’d take the profit, they should cough up. This has been going on more than a year now and they still refuse to. The landing stage failed to meet the projections they invented by looking at Dublin and Cobh. Who came up with them? The council???? As a result it’s losing them money. This will too because cruising is seasonal these days with high fuel prices and new SOLAS regs due to come into force in 2015. The council live in La La Land. Course it won’t affect Southampton but that’s not the issue. The money is (as well as contacted all ports except Southampton to ask whether they object to turnaround facilities or not) and with all this crap in the papers, that issue has been lost to name calling and childishness. Every other port in the country has invested themselves and slowly built up a business. Liverpool should too otherwise EVERY port should get tax payer’s money. The fact Peel are tighter than a gnat’s backside shows they have NO confidence in gaining a profit. As for our respective toilet papers churning out crap daily – GIVE IT A REST!!!!! IT’S BORING!!!!!! Let’s lock them in a room to batter each other into silence!

  2. Having read your article we have an agreement that the papers are hyping this way too much, and not really helping either cause.
    However I do believe people who live in the region would prefer to choose a local port such as Liverpool as a port of departure, I can fly to Barcelona or Amsterdam faster than it takes me to get Southampton. In America the market has shown that cruises operating out of ports can serve local markets, While Miami and Fort Laudradale are the main ports Charleston and New York provide alternatives. Carnival recently commiting Year Round to NY I believe, while the European scene is further behind I do believe Liverpool, Southampton, Dover and Newcastle can all grow serving respective markets.

    • As I said in my blog, it’s always the claim people don’t want to travel to Southampton while omitting Dover and Harwich. People go to Falmouth to begin a cruise or up to Rosyth. If the itinerary is of interest or price is right, people WILL travel. I have looked at cruises from Newcastle to Norway but the itinerary hasn’t been what I’m looking for and I can do a Med or Canaries cheaper from Southampton than Liverpool. That is a northern myth and every northerner (which includes Scotland) I have met on cruises ex-UK (Southampton, Dover and Harwich) and abroad disagree with it, being more than happy to travel since they can get a cheap flight down. Liverpool had Fred Olsen yet still many chose to go to other ports around the country. And, since FOCL would move out in around June up to Scotland, they had no choice. Liverpool had winter cruises yet people still travelled south to board a ship. There were many Scousers and other northerners on my Aurora cruise and they’d brought their kids with them (we also had Germans – who do their own cruises to where we went – and Australians, other than my friend). Yet there was an option to do one from Rosyth with Fred Olsen. The itinerary wasn’t as good which is probably why they came south. Liverpool could do that but, like Fred Olsen, it would be limited. P&O have dropped Greenland from next year due to fuel costs, something else Liverpool would be affected by. Just compare itins from the north to the same destinations as the south (which include Dover and Harwich) and often there are vast differences. They can offer short trips to Norway from Newcastle or a week plus due to sea days from Liverpool, Southampton and Dover. A Baltic would be impossible so again, people would travel to Southampton, Dover or Harwich if they didn’t want to fly to Amsterdam or Copenhagen. People will only go to where they fancy, not just because they have ships starting there.

      As for the East coast of America, they have limited itineraries like the West coast. It’s all about usually the same ports and saving fuel. But most of the ships come to Europe in the summer, mainly the Med which is saturated. Many Americans refuse to fly because the cost is too great so they drastically cut cruise fares to entice Europeans. I’ve had several good bargains on American lines from Southampton, Harwich and Barcelona. It’s a double-edged sword.

  3. Ships can only use liverpool as a port of call, not start a cruise at the terminal. Ludicrous. Conditions were put on the grant for the Liverpool cruise liner terminal. The question begs, why? Were these conditions to protect the highly subsidized south? It looks that way. Why can’t people in the North West, Yorkshire and the Midlands take a short rail trip to an attractive terminal at Liverpool to start a cruise? It makes no sense at all to handicap the city.

    Many, many millions of public money was spent on uprating the rail line from Southampton to Nuneaton in the Midlands. This directly competes with Liverpool’s container terminal – moving into Liverpool’s core territory. The Midland is well served, so why spend needless millions to get another port to serve the area?

    If Liverpool pay money back for this terminal, are Southampton going to repay the rail upgrade costs?

    This needless spending on rail, could have been diverted to uprating and extending Liverpool’s underground metro, which assists in creating economic growth in a depressed city. The city is desperate for its extension. All the Southampton rail link did was divert trade from a depressed part of the country to a prosperous part – no gain overall for the UK.

    Public money spent is public money spent!!!!

    The Southampton to Nuneaton line was not for the benefit of the Midlands, they were already well connected. It was for the benefit of Southampton only. It offered nothing for the Midlands.

    The rail link took trade from a depressed area to an affluent area – its intention. The line can take containers and passengers very easily and quickly.

    Most of the 20th century is spattered with the London government favoring Southampton to Liverpool. The RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth were owned by a Liverpool company, conceived in Liverpool and had Liverpool in larger letters on the sterns. Not once in near 40 years of sailing did either sail up the River Mersey – a city in which some of the world’s largest ships sail past its city centre.

    So, is Southampton going to repay some of the cost of the very expensive rail upgrade? What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

    • It’s called INVESTMENT, which is what companies do to attract business. What has Peel Ports done without the help of taxpayer’s funding? As for the Nuneaton line, you clearly have no idea Southampton’s container business (which is majority owned by Dubai World) is competing with Felixstowe and also the new one planned at Thamesport. The container trades at Southampton and Liverpool are entirely different. Southampton handles larger ships for a start! There is also a double tide, meaning vessels aren’t restricted when they come and go and no locks or bar. As for Cunard, they chose Southampton from 1919 as a base for their liners due to many well documented factors and both ports lost out once the jet age came in. All Liverpool has to do is cough up and pay PRIVATE money the same as every other port in the country only you seem to have a problem with that. I have cousins up there who are taxpayers and would rather their money went on public services not to a private company. Peel Ports had YEARS to build a proper facility, even upgrading Langton Dock but haven’t. Why? That’s the question you should be asking. You clearly have a chip on your shoulder about Southampton, hence your rant but they wouldn’t be number 1 cruise port in Northern Europe and number 2 for containers in the UK if they’d had owners like Peel Ports. Dover would be nothing, as they were 20 years ago. Harwich has slowly built up nice little summer business, so have Greenwich, Tilbury, and even Hull. Liverpool only has itself to blame for stagnating because they did NOTHING until awarded Capital of Culture to attract cruise ships. So stop accusing Southampton of bad practice for actually doing something to gain business whereas Peel Ports want the business while expecting taxpayers to pay for their profits. My dad’s from Liverpool, his family worked at the docks, and he’s ashamed of what’s going on up there.

      I looked at your site and wouldn’t you prefer the council focusing on that than giving taxpayers money to a private company?

  4. Southampton only for the past 100 years or so has attracted large ships, even though it required no locks and 3 tides a day. Why? Because it is in the middle of nowhere. It is an easy location for London so attracted liners, but not much freight – the port is quite small in comparison to Liverpool and the Mersey ports. Prior to closure of the Liverpool south end docks it had 38 miles of quay. Southampton is in effect now on the peripherals of London. So its importance is for the south east.

    The public funded Nuneaton rail line was clearly to give Southampton “market share” not generate extra growth. The Midlands can now choose Southampton despite not needing to.

    Liverpool stagnated because London has twice as much public money poured into it than the rest. Private companies naturally migrated to London and its peripherals because of the public money poured into the area giving the south east the best infrastructure.

    Liverpool does need to have berths for larger ships because Newport in the USA has not uprated its port yet.

    Peel do not own the Liverpool cruise liner terminal. Although your criticism of Peel, a property company is valid. Peel want to build their own second terminal funded by themselves. So they say, but want docks filled in to gain lucrative land to build it. They can build one without water space filling.

    If Southampton is so big then why are they whining away about Liverpool? Because Liverpool is the phoenix rising? Lets face it as a a city it outclasses Southampton and the Pier Head is at a the attractive city centre. Having a cruise in which the passengers stay on the ship for a night at LIverpool, while enjoying what Liverpool has to offer is an attraction which Southampton could never offer.

    In North America the cruise terminals for the Caribbean are in Florida. But! Many are now starting and finishing, all year around, from NY and Charleston. People prefer the shorter trip to the ship and then cruising, even in cold weather for a day or so – the ships have amenities and attractions 24/7 without going on deck.

    Following the US experience, a cruise from Liverpool -> to warmer northern Spain, Lisbon, Gib, Morocco and maybe a few ports in the Med and back to Liverpool would be highly attractive to the heavy population in the North West. Cruises from Liverpool stopping at a few Irish ports, western Scotland and out to Iceland will be appealing to many.

    Conditions were put on the grant for the Liverpool cruise liner terminal. The question begs, why?

    So, is Southampton going to repay some of the cost of the very expensive public money rail upgrade? What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

    You are right the Liverpool City Council should focus on saving Liverpool Docks and ignore Peels proposals to fill them in.

    • In the past towns clustered around ports because energy was expensive and transportation more difficult. Liverpool is surrounded by small towns. Rail came and energy became cheaper, and transportation faster, so towns away from ports could prosper.

      The containers came changing ports forever. They decided to have the container distribution, and stuffing & stripping of containers, away from the ports (mainly to prevent any strike from crippling a port, rather than for efficiency – political reasons). Container ports, or terminals, are just transit places, with containers zipped in and out very quickly. Container port Felixstowe deals with an amazing volume of tonnage, yet there are no cargo storage sheds and Felixstowe is only a town.

      The old storage/warehouse and cargo handling of yesteryear, which could be done at the port was split into many locations using containers.

      Energy is now getting expensive and moves are in place to reduce traffic on roads and rail for eco reasons. The Thames Gateway container port at Thurrock is to be a distribution and container port all in one. The first in the UK. The reason is to cut down on transport costs to an inland distribution centre which takes time and more energy. They can take containers directly into adjacent London making matters much cheaper and quicker. The biggest cost by far, in the transportation of a container, is the land transport costs at each end. ENERGY is getting more expensive and ports next to clusters of towns are starting to rise. Felixstowe and Southampton can easily take the business of Thurrock right now and into the future. They are both not that far from London, but energy cost are higher, and getting higher for sure, so a distribution/container port next to London now is economically feasible.

      The same will be the case for Liverpool, which is surrounded by a large cluster of small towns and and even a big city. Make Liverpool a distribution/container port and container transport costs will drop.

      Liverpool needs to make the port a distribution/container port as a priority. The post-panamax behemoths are still very rare ships and the vast majority of containers are shipped in smaller ships. Newport, neat NY, cannot handle large ships (yet), neither can the eastern seaboard of the USA. Before post-panamax facilities LIverpool needs the distribution aspect of containers right at the port.

      When taking a cheap Continental flight, the cost of the transportation, parking, etc at each end is far more expensive than the long flight – and fraught with inconvenience in many cases. The same for a cruise line passenger, in the ever increasing cruise liner market. The passengers nearest the cruise ports will spend less on transport and get to the ship and home, quicker with far less inconvenience.

  5. Pingback: Cunard is coming to Liverpool! (Maybe… Probably Not…Very Unlikely) « Crociere

  6. Pingback: Liverpool’s Cruise Terminal «

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