Friday, 3 February 2012

Fight club

There has been an on-going dispute for a while between the ports of Southampton and Liverpool over the lucrative cruise industry, of which Southampton has the lion's share. Ever since Cunard moved their express liners to Southampton just after World War One, and the port since built up its passenger shipping and cruise industry, envious Scouse eyes have been cast in this direction. Liverpool can only offer its services as a port-of-call and not a turnaround port (i.e. cruises can start and finish there) because they used public money to build their terminal (Southampton port is privately funded). They are not happy about this, and have been making ever-louder noises about wanting to be a turnaround port although they have been repeatedly - and rightly - denied this because they are publicly funded. I say 'rightly' not just because I am biased but because if Liverpool can do this on the back of public money then it gives them an unfair advantage over those ports - including Southampton - who built up their trade from scratch using private money.

Liverpool offered to pay back £5 million of the tax-payers' money they used but the UK government has said 'no'. Ok, said Liverpool, we'll pay the lot back (but not, it seems the £9m of EU public funding they also got). However, according to BBC South Today, Liverpool will pay all the UK Government money back with Liverpool City Council money - also public money! This will be paid back in annual instalments, timescale unknown. What the EU will say about their money remains to be seen.

Of course, on a personal level, being a southerner and living close to Southampton, I hope that Southampton comes out on top in this dispute but, in reality, competition is no bad thing and I don't seriously think that Liverpool is going to steal all of Southampton's trade despite the fact they might want to. It's the smaller ports, such as Dover, Harwich and even Portsmouth (who are aiming for a slice of the cruise industry themselves), who will probably suffer most.
Liverpool is not in the best place for starting and ending cruises that are going to the Mediterranean or the near Continent as Southampton is closer, although Liverpool is probably better placed for cruises to Scandinavia and Greenland. Also in Southampton's favour is the double high tide, caused by the Isle of Wight which lies in the estuary, and no lock system, meaning ships can arrive and depart at any time.
Reading between the lines I believe Liverpool have their eyes on what they consider the 'big prize', the return of Cunard to their port but, frankly, I don't see that happening, not least because Cunard's (Carnival) European head office is in Southampton and they have said they have no plans to move. That said, I don't think there could be any reason why one or two Cunard cruises shouldn't depart from Liverpool during a season. I just hope that Liverpool don't think that they can grab all of Southampton's trade or try to.

Southampton (rightly) won't give up and I don't think we've heard the last of this! I think this one will run and run.

The latest news on the newest twist to the ongoing spat ~

Captain Greybeard - 'Liverpool claims victory in battle over its Pier Head Cruise terminal'
Daily Echo (Southampton) - 'Liverpool to launch turnaround cruises within months, council leader claims'
BBC - 'Liverpool settle Pier Head cruise terminal row'


No photos recently, it's the depths of winter, the weather's inclement, work has got in the way and I have not managed to get out anywhere. The main website is in dire need of new material, as is this (hence the diversions taking in the Lusitania and the Southampton-Liverpool cruise spat), but hopefully once spring has got underway, the weather has improved and my current temporary job has ended, I can get out and about more. I certainly will once my seasonal job begins again.
I have a trip to Rotterdam lined up for June and am planning to join a couple of TSS cruises round the Solent.