Cruise liners to return to Liverpool's Pier Head

Cruise liners are poised to return to the centre of Liverpool after an absence of more than 25 years under an ambitious pounds 60m redevelopment scheme of the city's waterfront planned by Mersey Docks and Harbour Company.

The ports operator plans to build new berths for cruise ships at Pier Head by dredging the River Mersey. Together with other new port developments designed to bring in ferry operators offering services to and from Ireland, Mersey Docks hopes to attract 500,000 passengers by the turn of the century.

The group is also building a new 174-bedroom Holiday Inn and a huge office complex at Princes Dock, next to the famous Liver building, immortalised by The Liver Birds 1970s TV series.

Mersey Docks is one of the largest property owners in the city, with over 2,000 acres at its disposal. It has embarked on a 850,000 square feet warehousing and industrial project near its existing port facilities and could eventually build another 1.5 million square feet of offices, retail and leisure space.

Cunard stopped running cruise ships from Liverpool to North America in the mid-1960s. The last liner to set sale from the city waterfront, the Empress of Canada, left in 1971. It is soon to return to Liverpool under its new name Apollo and will be able to use the deep channel berths by 1999.

Mersey Docks' reputation and share price has been tarnished by a long- running dispute with 329 former dockers. However the group insists that the action by the former employees is having no effect on its business. The group is still determined not to enter into any new negotiations and it claims the Government, which still owns a 15 per cent stake in the business, has put no pressure on it to do so.

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