Firm that keeps the cruise ships moving in and out

A firm that this year ensured 94 cruise ships berthed at, and departed, Liverpool Cruise Terminal safely was one of a trio addressing maritime leaders at an event this week. Tony McDonough reports

Southampton Cargo Handling
Southampton Cargo Handling teams handle cruise vessels at Liverpool Cruise Terminal. Picture by Tony McDonough


In one of the most challenging years for Liverpool Cruise Terminal one specialist firm ensured the huge vessels came in and out of the Mersey with the minimum of fuss.

Southampton Cargo Handling (SCH) offers a complete range of terminal and ship handling services at ports across the UK, including Liverpool. Its skilled team of stevedores manages the tricky task of safely getting ships in and out of ports.

SCH operations manager, Joseph Loyden, was one of a trio of companies and organisations addressing industry body Mersey Maritime’s final monthly Face-2-Face networking event of 2021 at its Birkenhead headquarters.

Members attending the session, the first all in-person Face-2-Face since before the pandemic, also heard from distance learning specialist UniCourse and the National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) which is piloting a pioneering project to help care-leavers in Wirral.

Southampton Cargo Handling

Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK in March 2020, that year’s cruise season was effectively a write-off. However, despite the continuing challenges of the pandemic the sector has rebounded in 2021 and SCH has been at the centre of that.

Its team of Stevedores has been responsible for getting 94 cruise ships in and out of Liverpool Cruise Terminal through the spring, summer and into the autumn of this year. Joseph Loyden explained: “We have a highly-skilled and highly-experienced team.

“If we have a cruise call coming into Liverpool then the whole turnaround will take about 14 hours. We have to tie up and control the ship for the disembarkation and embarkation of the cruise passengers. And then we untie the vessel to allow it to depart safely.

Joseph Loyden
Southampton Cargo Handling operations manager, Joseph Loyden. Picture by Tony McDonough


“We are very excited at the prospect of the new Cruise Terminal planned for Liverpool. It will be amazing for the future of the city. We are ready for that growth. We have a team of mostly agency staff – we are very versatile and very flexible.”

SCH was formed more than 30 years ago and handles cruise ships in Southampton and Portsmouth. It also handles ro-ro vessels and can help get all kinds of cargo, including helicopters, on and off ships. One of its biggest customers is automotive giant Ford.

And one of the company’s growing subsidiaries is Cruise and Passenger Services (CPS). It helps around 30,000 cruise passengers a year to make sure they have secure parking for the vehicles while they are enjoying their cruise. Joseph says this service is growing steadily out of Liverpool.


Formed in just 2014, UniCourse has established a strong reputation for offering distance learning for professional qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs in electrical and electronic engineering and mechanical engineering and other skills.

Paul Lopez and Geraint Phylip-Jones from the company addressed Mersey Maritime members and asked them to help the business to develop new courses specifically aimed at the maritime sector.

Paul, whose father founded the business, said accessibility and flexibility was key to the success of UniCourse which specialises in upskilling people who are usually already managing full-time jobs.

“We have helped hundreds of learners and professionals across the UK to take on vital new skills while still doing their jobs and getting one with their everyday lives,” he said. “We offer flexible learning for people with busy lives.

“We offer tutor support for our learners seven days a week. Often people can only do their learning in the evenings and at weekends. We are no good to them if we just operate Monday to Friday and switch off at 5pm. We don’t switch off and we offer very quick feedback.”

Paul Lopez, left, and Geraint Phylip-Jones from UniCourse. Picture by Tony McDonough


A number of UniCourse customers are individuals, said Paul, but he added that the company was increasingly working with large companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, Transport for London and National Grid, to offer new skills and qualifications for their employees without them having to organise day-long sessions.

He also talked about the firm’s recently-launched careers hub which is designed to help learners after they have finished their courses. It offers advice and support on things such as writing CVs and preparing for job interviews.

Geraint said UniCourse was now developing HNC and HND courses in marine engineering. He told those at the Face-2-Face: “We want you to help us develop courses that will meet the needs of the maritime industry.”

He added that Mersey Maritime had set up a forum to facilitate that consultation process and anyone who wanted to contribute to that could contact Ruth Wood at Mersey Maritime by emailing


At any given time across the UK there are 90,000 children and young people in care and every year 10,000 will leave to try to make their own way in the world.

That is a daunting and frightening prospect for many and NYAS is determined to give as many of those young people as possible as much support as possible. Its ethos, according to head of fundraising at the charity, Paula Hanford, is “we are always on the side of the child”.

NYAS exists to support both children currently in the care system and those who are about to leave or have left. It is based in Wirral but operates across the UK and is focused on supporting young people and making sure “their voices are heard”.

Addressing the Face-2-Face event, Paula explained: “Every adult in the life of a child in care is there because they are paid to be there. Our volunteers are not paid to be there. They are there to build up a relationship with them, to go on days out and they will be in their lives for a long time.”

NYAS has launched a pilot project in Wirral called Side by Side which aims to support people leaving the care system and help them make the often difficult transition to living as independent adults.

Paula Hanford
Paula Hanford, head of fundraising at (NYAS). Picture by Tony McDonough


“When I left home I had a full family support network – I could pick up the phone and ring my mum any time,” said Paula. “Young people leaving care don’t have access to those networks. We have research that shows that 86% of them will feel anxious and alone.”

During the pandemic, NYAS appealed for volunteers in Wirral for the Side by Side programme and were delighted that, despite the pandemic, 50 people came forward. Following checks and training there are now 23 volunteers helping young care-leavers across the borough.

So far, the programme is helping to transform the lives of 12 young people and NYAS is now aiming to roll it out to other parts of the North West in the next 12 months. It is asking businesses to support its work.

Paula explained that each young person is matched with a volunteer mentor and is also given a £500 skills and interests bursary. Businesses who want to support this vital work can find out more by logging on to

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