Storm brewing over port expansion

Southampton fumes over Liverpool's bid to scupper its stranglehold on cruise trade

It was the shipping magnate Samuel Cunard who turned Liverpool into the powerhouse of the ocean liner age, when his RMS Britannia first paddled up the Mersey bound for Boston in 1840. Within 100 years, however, Southampton had become the port of choice for the floating palaces of the 21st-century cruise industry.

Liverpool's famous Pier Head – once a gateway for millions of transatlantic passengers bound for the New World – went into decline and became little more than a romantic relic of its glorious past.

Despite the area being designated a Unesco world heritage site in 2004, attempts to rekindle the city's seafaring greatness have sparked a row with the owners of the Hampshire port. They are trying to block Liverpool's plan to upgrade the Pier Head into an embarkation and arrivals point for cruise ships, rather than just the stop-off it is now. Such a move would bring the city a far greater share of the millions the cruise industry generates for hotels, shops and restaurants in ports.

While 300 ships and one million passengers used Southampton last year, only 55 ships have visited Liverpool in the past two years, including 26 Royal Navy vessels. However, these alone generated £13.6m for the city's economy.

Associated British Ports (ABP), which owns Southampton docks, is furious that Liverpool received £20m of public money, including £9m from the European Union, to redevelop its Cruise Liner Terminal near the historic waterfront buildings known as "the Three Graces". It has written to the Department for Transport insisting that it throws out Liverpool City Council's plan to upgrade the terminal to an official "turnaround" point.

ABP, which is backed by Southampton City Council, claims Liverpool's proposal would distort the cruise market and unfairly benefit Peel Ports which operates the port of Liverpool. It is particularly annoyed after spending £19m on an Ocean Terminal which opened at Southampton this year. A source close to the company said: "If our customers want improvements, it is down to us to deliver them – we don't get any gifts. This really rankles and simply isn't fair."

Despite the recession, the cruise industry is booming. In 2008, more than 1.5 million Britons took holidays afloat – twice the number of a decade earlier. Forty per cent of passengers depart from the UK, rather than flying abroad to join a ship, and increasing numbers are seeking out cold-water cruises to northern Europe and the Baltic states.

Operators have responded to the boom by commissioning ever more luxurious cruise ships. Royal Caribbean's new Oasis Of The Sea, due to come into service this year, can accommodate 5,400 passengers and is based on a theme park. It has seven "neighbourhoods", a central park, four swimming pools, a "royal promenade" and a myriad of bars and restaurants.

The trend is a throwback to the days before jet travel, when glamorous Hollywood stars such as Katharine Hepburn were seen on the gangplanks of White Star liners on Liverpool's waterfront. Cunard withdrew its last vessel sailing between Liverpool and New York, the RMS Sylvania, more than 40 years ago, followed soon after by the last two operators, Canadian Pacific and Elder Dempster.

Since then, cruise passengers in the North-West have had to embark from the heavily industrialised Langton terminal at Bootle. Councillor Gary Millar, a member of Liverpool City Council's enterprise and tourism committee, said changes were needed to meet passenger demand. He added: "We believe the creation of a full turnaround facility at Liverpool will benefit the cruise liner industry in the UK, as the city is uniquely positioned to attract business from outside Europe."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people

Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas
film
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Content Manager

£26000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Content Manager is re...

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee