Private sector partners ‘can create world class cruise terminal’

Bringing in private sector partners will ensure Liverpool can build a new world class cruise terminal that incorporates the latest net zero innovations.

That’s the view of Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of industry cluster organisation Mersey Maritime, which is the voice for Liverpool city region’s £5bn powerhouse maritime sector.

In the last few days LBN has revealed how Liverpool City Council is now seeking a private sector partner to run the existing facility and to pick up the baton on building a new terminal.

Backed to the tune of £20m by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Liverpool City Council was set to press ahead with a new cruise terminal, designed to accommodate the world’s biggest cruise vessels, before COVID-19 hit.

This caused a global shutdown in the cruise industry. Over the past year it has recovered strongly. However, Liverpool City Council’s financial position has deteriorated post-pandemic. Committing to a new cruise terminal now would be financially and politically difficult.

Last week LBN revealed the council is withdrawing the proposed new cruise terminal from its capital spending programme. Originally projected to cost around £50m, it is now expected delivery of the facility would cost an eye-watering £88m.

The council is also considering a separate proposal to transfer the running of the existing terminal to a third party operator, saving the authority £450,000 a year. It is currently run directly by the authority via Cruise Liverpool.

Earlier this year, Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of industry body Mersey Maritime, said it was “critical” Liverpool’s new terminal was built. The existing terminal already generates tens of millions of pounds each year for the city centre economy.

In a fresh interview with LBN Mr Shirling-Rooke welcomed the council’s proposal to collaborate with the private sector to take the project forward.

He said: “Last year Southampton opened its £55m Horizon Cruise Terminal. It has installed a shore power facility for cruise ships as part of the maritime industry’s journey towards decarbonisation.

“They have stolen a march on Liverpool so it is essential we match their ambition and get cracking to create our own world class terminal that is future-proofed for a net zero carbon future.

“At Mersey Maritime we are heavily involved in the drive to decarbonise the maritime industry. Decarbonisation is a key part of the Government’s Maritime 2050 strategy and our members are embracing this future with huge enthusiasm.

“Here in Merseyside companies such as Bibby Marine, which is developing a new generation of zero carbon offshore support vessels, and Peel Ports which is pushing to decarbonise its operations, are leading the charge.

“We are also working with multiple SMEs and local universities to develop net zero technology. This will all come together in the £25m Maritime Knowledge Hub that will be built at Wirral Waters.

“That drive and spirit of innovation is exactly what we need if we are to make the plans for a new cruise terminal a reality. The private sector is ready and willing to step up to the plate and create a world-leading facility.”

Mr Shirling-Rooke added the question was not whether we can afford to build a new cruise terminal, but whether we can afford not to.

He explained: “As a city region we have to maximise the potential of our greatest assets. The River Mersey has been the lifeblood of our economy for a thousand years. Today our local maritime sector is worth £5bn a year and supports more than 48,000 jobs.

“We have built one of the most successful, one of the most dynamic, maritime clusters in Europe. Mersey Maritime is already taking that knowledge and expertise across the UK to support the growth of other coastal communities.

“Over the past decade our visitor economy has also grown strongly. Pre-pandemic it was also worth £5bn a year. Since COVID it has bounced back.

“However, we can’t stand still. If we do, we will fall behind. Our new cruise terminal must happen and, here in our maritime sector, we have the drive, vision and ingenuity to make it happen. Let’s get on with it.”

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