The government today dismissed claims that a stalemate over the use of Liverpool’s new cruise ship terminal for turnaround journeys has been broken.
Local reports suggested that the city’s cruise ship terminal at Pier Head will finally be able to handle turnaround journeys in three months’ time.
This came as Liverpool council agreed to repay whatever grant cash is required to lift the ban on turnarounds – voyages starting and ending at Liverpool cruise terminal.
That will be at least the £5 million already offered to the government and could be as much as £9 million. The money will be paid in annual instalments, based on revenue from the number of cruise ship turnarounds.
The council has written to shipping minister Mike Penning offering to repay the sum.
Penning last month said the phased repayment of £5.3 million of grants would be “insufficient to reflect the adverse impact on competition with other ports”.
And a Department for Transport spokesman, while welcoming the council offer, said the situation had yet to be resolved as it was awaiting independent advice on the level of repayments seen to be more appropriate.
The DfT added that turnaround operations at the City of Liverpool Cruise Terminal also require State Aid clearance from the European Commission.
The sum the council is offering to repay is separate from the balance of £8 million from EU funds to build the £17 million terminal.
Liverpool City Council leader Joe Anderson said: “We have held discussions with the minister and agreed that we will pay back any sum decided by the independent panel.
“The repayments will be over a number of years and will be based on the number of liners using the terminal. We will be submitting a planning application next week for a temporary baggage and customs facility at Princes Dock.
“I’m really excited about what will be a new era for us.”
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines earlier announced plans to resume turnaround cruises from Liverpool next year with 10 voyages.
“It’s great news for the city that Fred Olsen have committed to returning to Liverpool,” said Anderson. “It’s a real vote of confidence in the future of Liverpool’s cruise industry and shows that they share our optimism that turnaround facilities at our cruise liner terminal will soon become a reality.
“We are grateful to the Government for giving us a fair hearing on this matter.
“We can now look forward to the big ships returning to the Mersey to start and end cruises. It will be a massive boost, not only to the city’s economy but to the region as a whole.”
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