‘Stop playing around and build the cruise terminal’

This week LBN revealed that a decision on Liverpool’s new cruise terminal could be two years away but Mersey Maritime CEO, Chris Shirling-Rooke, says the delay is unacceptable. Tony McDonough reports

Cruise vessel Magellan at Liverpool Cruise Terminal. Picture by Tony McDonough


Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke has today told Liverpool City Council “don’t play around with our future” amid further delays on the new cruise terminal.

Last year the city council said it would not be in a position to make a decision on a new £50m terminal until 2023. And LBN revealed earlier this week that the decision may be pushed back to 2024 due to a lack of visibility on the health of the cruise market.

Last summer there was a strong recovery with more than 100 cruises returning to Liverpool, bringing 80,000 passengers to the city. This year the terminal will once again welcome more than 100 cruise calls, providing an estimated £15m boost to the city.

However, LBN understands that a significant number of passengers sailing on ships this summer are taking trips that were originally booked during the pandemic and therefore there is still limited visibility on how many new cruises are being booked.

Mr Shirling-Rooke, who represents hundreds of businesses in the Liverpool city region’s £4.2bn maritime sector, said the cruise terminal was “desperately needed” to ensure the Merseyside economy is not left behind.

“I respectfully say to all those involved, please don’t play around with the future of our maritime industry, an industry that has made our region a place for us all to be proud of. If we don’t make the big calls now, we’ll be left behind.

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“Aside from the obvious challenge of COVID-19, we know that cruise makes a massive contribution to our local economy as part of the £5bn tourist industry which was booming in 2019. Liverpool is the most significant cruise destination on the west coast of the United Kingdom and a major market player for the whole sector across the country.

“Apparently one of the arguments against committing to this major project is concern over the viability of the cruise industry going forward. I would love to see where this data has come from, as it’s not something we recognise within the industry.

“All the indications are that the sector is recovering strongly since the pandemic with some of the largest cruise ships in the world coming into the Mersey since last summer – more than 100 cruises, bringing more than 80,000 passengers to the city.”

Mr Shirling-Rooke acknowledged the concerns about carbon emissions from cruise ships. The city council has declared a climate emergency and is taking a more sceptical line with Liverpool Airport. Some councillors have also raised the issue of emissions from cruise vessels.

However, Mr Shirling-Rooke said through projects such as the £25m Maritime Knowledge Hub planned for Wirral Waters and driven by Mersey Maritime, the city region was set to be at the forefront of decarbonisation of the maritime sector.


Chris Shirling-Rooke
Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of Mersey Maritime


He explained: “We know this is a big challenge for all means of transport as we transition towards net zero and prioritise sustainability. What would be crazy though would be to turn our backs on the opportunity presented to lead the world in this field.

“We have some of the best academic institutions on the planet and some of the most innovative maritime businesses anywhere in the country who are already looking at alternative fuels and ways to deliver decarbonisation. 

“We can’t afford to just mothball a whole sector because as a region our political masters don’t have the will or the foresight to grab this ‘once in a generation’ job creation opportunity with both hands, whilst we strive for perfect solutions.

“Mersey Maritime wants to see our incredible, diverse and dynamic region capitalise on this economic and transformative opportunity, and not be given away by people who perhaps don’t fully represent or understand our great coastal community.”

Mistakes had been made in the recent past, Mr Shirling-Rooke added, saying the city region had not taken advantage of the Government’s Getting Building Fund announced in July 2020.

“Other areas prioritised maritime projects, including in Southampton where significant funding was confirmed for a new fifth cruise terminal which will deliver an iconic wave inspired building complete with solar generation and shore power,” he said.

“These are the sort of transformational openings we can’t afford to miss. My message is simple: we need to seize this opportunity together – now.

“Let’s give cruise the boost it needs to power back further from the pandemic and continue to make a major contribution to our regional economy, creating jobs and growth where it’s needed most.”

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