New Mersey Ferries offer a ‘massive opportunity’

Maritime industry leader Chris Shirling-Rooke says the multi-million pound project to build new Mersey Ferries is a ‘massive opportunity’ and must form part of the push to net zero carbon. Tony McDonough reports

Royal Iris
Mersey Ferry Royal Iris approaches the Seacombe terminal. Picture by Tony McDonough


A leading light in Liverpool city region’s £4bn powerhouse maritime sector has welcomed news that a plan to build two Mersey Ferries is being revived but says it is essential that they are part of the push to net zero carbon.

Earlier this week LBN revealed that Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram was set to revive the project to build two new ferries after the original plan was put on hold in May 2021 due to cost pressures caused by the UK’s exit from the EU.

In December 2018, the Combined Authority put out a tender to build the first of the new ferries to replace the current vessels, Snowdrop and Royal Iris, which are more than 60 years’ old.  LBN has learned that favourites for the job are Dutch shipbuilder Damen Shipyards Group along with a local Merseyside partner.

It is believed Damen would build the structures of the vessels which will then be sent to Merseyside for a final fit-out. Likeliest candidate for its local partner would be Cammell Laird in Birkenhead, which has extensive recent experience of working with ferry operators.

LBN also revealed the engines to power the vessels are likely to be hybrid diesel/electric. When Mr Rotheram originally announced plans to build new ferries he said £1.9m had been secured from the European Regional Development Fund to fund low carbon engines for the vessels.

Now Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of Mersey Maritime with represents hundreds of businesses in the local marine sector, said decarbonisation and sustainability must be at the heart of the project.

He explained: “This development is very welcome indeed given the delays that have occurred since the original call out for tenders was published in 2018. The iconic Mersey Ferry service needs these new vessels and our understanding that the procurement process is well underway is just what we want to hear.


Mersey Ferry Snowdrop. Picture by Tony McDonough
Chris Shirling-Rooke
Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of Mersey Maritime


“This represents a massive opportunity for our region. This city was built on visionary thinking and leadership, something that’s undoubtedly needed to make sure these vitally important ferries, the very symbol of our region, will service the River Mersey and its passengers for decades to come.

“We are blessed in having an abundance of world class maritime expertise right here locally, and as such have an opportunity to create world leading exemplars for decarbonisation and sustainability. The current two vessels are more than 60 years’ old and there’s a strong likelihood that the next ones will last equally as long.

READ MORE: UK shipbuilding strategy offers billions

“It is absolutely essential that these vessels are built to last and that they utilise the latest technologies, pushing the boundaries of the ‘art of the possible’ as we’ve always done in this city, and being part of our concerted effort as a country to deliver net zero.”

Mr Shirling-Rooke said it was likely the Government would shortly publish its National Shipbuilding Strategy. There would be, he predicted, a new emphasis on UK built vessels of all types and a pipeline for shipbuilding that “reaches long into the future”.

“Key to this work will be UK based companies having the confidence in themselves and the commercial opportunity represented by this strategy, to be leading players,” he added. “We can’t afford to be using old ideas, old technology and old approaches to what is some of the most dynamic work we need to tackle right now.

“The Liverpool city region has all the maritime tools in its box. Let’s have the confidence, the vision and the drive to make sure our region’s booming sector maximises every aspect of this new opportunity.”

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