Liverpool City Council to pull out of cruise terminal
After 15 years of operating the Liverpool Cruise Terminal, the local authority is looking to surrender its lease to make way for a third party to run the facility – while also jumping ship on its plans for a new one.
A report from Liverpool City Council culture and economy scrutiny committee meeting next week outlines the city council’s intent to pull out of the cruise liner business. By surrendering its lease to statutory port authority The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, the city council will be freed from any financial responsibility or liability attached to the cruise terminal infrastructure.
It also spells the end of the city council’s involvement in developing a new facility at the Princes Jetty on Princes Dock – a project that has nearly doubled in price since achieving outline planning consent in 2018.
Why the change?
Surrendering the lease of the Liverpool Cruise Terminal will help the city council avoid further running costs, with the cruise terminal operating on a net shortfall of several hundred thousand a year. There is also a future need to replace pontoons, which would cost the city council between £8m and £9m.
Regarding the activity of the cruise terminal itself, Liverpool’s head of city assets Angie Redhead said that the only visible change would be the logo above the door – and that all the ships lined up to arrive until 2026 would proceed as planned.
Redhead stated that the local authority is already in talks with a potential third-party operator. While she did not name the company, she did say it was a global operator that had developed similar projects in the Caribbean and was keen to have a footprint in the Irish Sea.
This company had been speaking with the city council about taking over the terminal in March 2020, but talks had been paused during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cllr Harry Doyle, the lead cabinet member for health, wellbeing, and culture, acknowledged that the city council’s withdrawal from operating the cruise terminal does, on its face, look rather negative.
But he sees it differently.
“We took [the terminal] to a place where it has come from strength to strength,” Doyle said. He added that this moment is more like “a baby bird flying from the nest to grow”.
Redhead agreed. “It has achieved what it was built to do, which was drive economic benefit into the city”.
Cllr Nick Small, cabinet member for growth and economy, added that the cruise liner terminal was an example of how the city’s administration under Leader Cllr Liam Robinson would operate.
“What we want to do is put investment in, pump, prime, and develop a sector and move on and put investment into whatever the next thing is going to be that create jobs,” Small said.
The cruise liner terminal, he argued, has done that. “We’ve gone from a situation of having no cruise industry in Liverpool to the success we have now,” he said.
Small anticipates using money saved from cruise liner terminal expenditure to help build up the city’s life sciences, advanced manufacturing, and creative and digital industries.
“This isn’t about dis-investment,” Small said. “This is about saying that we’ve got to a stage where we’re really resilient and it’s time for the private sector to step up.”
What about the new terminal?
Plans for a 108,000 sq ft terminal have been in the works for years, during which costs have skyrocketed from £50m to close to £90m. Stride Treglown was the architect of the scheme, while McLaughlin & Harvey had been lined up to build it.
As a result of the rising costs, the city council is scuppering its promise to deliver the facility. It just does not have that kind of capital cash in its coffers.
Small said: “Even if we did have £90m sitting around, the critical question would be if that is the best way to invest it, or would we want to look at something else.”
However, dreams of a new terminal are not dashed, with a third party able to pick up where the local authority has left out.
The company that the city council is in talks with would be, in theory, capable of also taking on this project. This means there is some hope for a new cruise liner terminal – but far from any guarantee.
Following the scrutiny committee meeting, the city council’s cabinet will vote on the cruise terminal’s fate. Redhead noted that if all goes to plan, the legals for a new operator to take over the cruise liner terminal could be complete by April.