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CRUISE WARS; Southampton steps up its bid to block Pier Head.


SOUTHAMPTON has stepped up its attempt to block Liverpool's Pier Head from being allowed to become a start and finish base for cruise liners.

The Department for Transport is currently considering whether to relax rules to allow a full "turnaround" facility to be created at Liverpool's Cruise Liner Terminal.

The DfT has to give its approval because of a pounds 9m grant from the European Union that helped fund the pounds 20m terminal.

But Associated British Ports, which owns Southampton, is objecting saying that would amount to unfair help that would "distort" competition in the port sector.

The firm has now also accused Liverpool of going behind its back to seek the support of arch rival Portsmouth.

And the war of words is escalating with websites in Southampton filled with stereotypical criticism of Liverpool.

HAVE The latest protests from ABP about Liverpool's bid concern emails sent from officials here to other ports including Portsmouth, but not Southampton, which it claims appeared they were in cahoots to "get one over on Southampton".

But the ECHO understands that ABP have not been kept in the dark and actually held a meeting with officials from Liverpool in the last month to discuss the plans.

A Liverpool Council spokesman said: "Everything we have done has been done in agreement with the Department for Transport."

Southampton's economic development leader, Tory Cllr Royston Smith has also stepped into the row saying what Liverpool was requesting was "an abuse of state aid".

Southampton port director Doug Morrison said: "If you were contacting a cruise port on the south coast, would you go to Portsmouth? That shows you they are worried about competition.We are concerned that obviously Portsmouth and the likes are in cahoots with Liverpool to try and get one over on Southampton. It is not how we should be doing business.

"We have no argument with Liverpool City Council. We know how important the cruise business is and how it can be used to regenerate a city. But taxpayers' money distorts the marketplace."

Critical commentators on websites in Southampton have been quick to slam Liverpool.

One wrote: "Cruise ship passengers would get fleeced in Liverpool by taxi drivers or forced to go to the Beatles Museum."

Cllr Gary Millar, Liverpool's enterprise and tourism leader, said: ''We believe that the creation of a full turn-around facility at Liverpool will benefit the cruise liner industry in the UK, as the city is uniquely positioned to attract business from outside of Europe.

"The application has been made in response to calls from the industry and passengers."

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COMPARE AND CONTRAST: A cruise ship at the Pier Head versus the less glamorous view at Southampton
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 25, 2009

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